Rosalie was a quiet child and an average student who considered religious life in Manila—not necessarily someone you’d pick to make it through nursing school, move to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for several years, and take and retake English-language tests until, after 20 years of working, she could obtain a visa to the United States, take on a night shift in a Galveston hospital and embrace suburban life.
She works hard and loves caring for her patients. In a book on Rosalie, journalist Jason DeParle writes about how “Celtic pilgrims talk of ‘thin places’ where the distance between heaven and earth narrows and the presence of God is more readily felt. Rosalie, the almost nun, worked in a thin place.”
To write the book, DeParle followed Rosalie and her family for 30 years. Members of the family migrate around the world in search of work, then send money back to their relatives in the Philippines.
DeParle says, “the money that migrants send back to their families is three times the world’s foreign-aid budgets combined. Migration is the world’s largest self-help program, the world’s largest anti-poverty program. It’s hugely important to the people who are relying on the money they get for education, for health care, for food, for shelter.”
Because of this, a common Filipino expression—“A good provider is one who leaves”—became the title of the book. Loving her family, Rosalie left them in order to provide for them, as many migrants do today.
The original disciples of Jesus experienced this, too. Jesus saw Simon and Andrew fishing and said, “Follow me and I will send you out to fish for people” (Mark 1:16-17). What did they do? “At once they left their nets and followed him” (1:18). They left their nets and presumably their families as well.
In the same way, Jesus called James and John, and they “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him” (1:20). The disciples simply left. And Jesus was proud of them for doing so. So, what does it mean to be a good disciple today?
We may not be challenged to quit fishing and follow Jesus, but still we are supposed to leave. This means abandoning what we know and walking with Jesus in a new direction.
Leave the comfortable for the uncomfortable
Many are taking comfort during a pandemic by seeking like-minded people. This has some benefits, but without caution and care it also increases polarization among us. We are segregating ourselves by political party, ideology, race, religion or even residential community.
What can you do to better understand and relate to those who are different? Even those with whom you disagree? What can you do so that people “on the other side” see you as approachable, loving and caring? Like Jesus.
Jesus did not begin his ministry by talking only with like-minded Galileans.
Instead, he and his disciples immediately faced “a man who was possessed with an impure spirit” (1:23). Then “Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons” (1:34). And instead of staying at home, Jesus said, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also” (1:38).
Jesus and his disciples did not remain in comfortable places with like-minded people. Instead, they moved into new areas and did the work of helping, healing, teaching and preaching.
Be one who leaves. And you’ll find more thin places where heaven comes close to earth.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for those who have left home or family to make this a better world. Thank you for your call and your promise, that I must leave the comfortable to follow you and make a difference. You did just that for me. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: What can you do so that people “on the other side” see you as approachable, loving and caring?