Culture Shock

If you have talked to me in the past few months or sent me an email in March, you would know I was traveling. Part for vacation, part for meeting an expanding family and part for my wanderlust to settle down for another year or so. I went with my boyfriend, his sisters, their families and met his half-brother and family in Thailand; which, we explored all over.

Throughout the trip I was reminded how present God is in the world, no matter the religion. I also got to see similarities in three large religious practices which I would have not known about if I hadn’t opened my eyes. In our group we had a variety of religious beliefs, myself a Christian, John’s sisters Buddhist, and his sister-in-law Muslim.

It’s easy to talk about our differences, how and who we worship, how we dress, what manners are rude. Often when one travels, those differences  are easy to notice and can lead to discomfort or homesickness. But, by opening eyes and hearts it’s easy to see our similarities. I noticed all our religions called for a time of fasting and drawing closer to the divine. Christians during Lent are encouraged to feast or fast in order to bring us closer to God. Muslims practice Ramadan to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran; which, includes fasting in several different ways. Vassa or “Buddhist Lent” is a time where monks and Buddhist practitioners practice deep meditation or give up things like meat, smoking or drinking.

Around the world different religions yearn for a time to draw closer to the divine, a time of personal and spiritual reflection. It’s comforting to know my brothers and sisters around the world follow similar habits.

We can also find similarities in the power of being reverent in holy places. Walking into temples sometimes takes my breath away, with golden murals covering the inside. As did swimming next to a barracuda in the Andaman sea, where a whole new level of reverence is learned next to God’s creation.

Traveling is magical as you get to experience different cultures, places, ways of life. The times when I travel is when I feel most connected to the stories of those in the Bible, like the Apostles spreading the Gospel, or the Israelites during the Exodus ( admittedly traveling now is much more luxurious). So next time you travel to an unknown land, see where you find God. Worshiping in a Buddhist temple, a burning bush, or perhaps as simple as seeing God’s love in your host for dinner. After all, we are all human, we are all trying to make the most of this life and make sense of the world God gave us.

Natalie Keller