I am blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Have been since I was a baby. Well, once I got hair, that is.
And now I have a very blonde-haired, blue-eyed little boy. And a very pregnant stomach. And I live in the Middle East.
Do you know what that means? We get stared at. A lot.
I’ve been experiencing this for the past five years, but I don’t know that ever in my life will it feel ‘normal.’ I grew up in Western culture, and staring is rude. You either need to learn how to be discreet, or buy sunglasses, according to my mom. But just flat-out staring is unacceptable.
Fast forward to my adult life when loads of children, and lots of grown women and men, will openly turn and watch me walk by, and you know what I hear in my head? “That’s rude!” And it’s uncomfortable, and I don’t like it. If I’m being honest.
I don’t like seeing passengers in the next car turn in their seats to watch me, I don’t like having people randomly come up and ask to take pictures with me before depositing a baby in my lap and maybe asking my name at some point. I don’t like being a novelty because I look different than everyone else.
These days, quite a bit of it gets pawned off on my Justus. Because, obviously, he’s way cuter! Thankfully he is usually quite gracious, but even for him it can be a bit much some days. Yesterday, we walked through our small grocery store in the middle of the day (aka, the slowest time when hardly anyone is out) and his cheeks got pinched three times. He is constantly being taken from us and trained as waiter, or barista, or produce manager. And as cool as the attention seems one day, it becomes heavy and tedious after a while. Sometimes, I just want to run and hide, I don’t want to be on display, and I don’t want to be scrutinized.
I will be honest, some days the attention has led to a very bad attitude and a hesitation to be out in the culture.
But thankfully, God is a gracious teacher. A week or so ago, as I was getting frustrated with the group of people just standing and watching me, God reminded me that part of the privilege of living here is showing Christ to a people who may never have another opportunity to see Him. Every time someone is staring at me, I have the chance to demonstrate the love and graciousness of my Savior and hope that the day that those people hear the Gospel, I will have done nothing to discolor it. I hope that when they hear the Gospel, I will have done whatever possible, even just in smiling and nodding, to make the fragrance of the message even sweeter.
So, recently, when the ire bubbles up and I want to just cower down and hide because I feel awkward and the object of someone’s rudeness, I try to remind myself that I have the opportunity to be myself and be selfish, or to let Christ shine through me, and remember that it’s not about me. It is liberating and encouraging to make the moment about Him. This passage has been going through my mind recently . . . well, actually only verse 14, but as I read the whole passage, I found it very fitting:
“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” (Hebrews 12:12-15)
And you know what else has been an encouragement? Knowing that when I make the moment about Him, He sees it. He knows. He was stared at too, and He knows that I hate it. But He knows when I choose to honor Him through it, or when I choose to honor myself through it.
So, to those of you who are stared at, or scrutinized, when you find yourself the minority . . . He sees you. He wants to see you see Him in the moment. So strengthen your knees, strive for peace, don’t let anyone watching you miss out on the grace of God. You may be the only chance they have to see Christ.