Chewalla Baptist Church in Chewalla, TN

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“You’re not from around Here, Are You?”
By Mary Howerton

In 2007, a job promotion brought my two boys and me from Minneapolis/St. Paul to the tiny Tennessee town of Kimball. It didn’t take long for the locals to figure out that I was just a little different. Maybe it was the fact that I insisted that the moving company pack Louie’s hockey stick and snowboard, along with the pots and pans. Perhaps the snow shovel, standing ready in the garage, gave it away. Or maybe the first clue that my roots didn’t go down even a tiny bit in Southern soil was the complete absence of bacon from my refrigerator. If any doubt remained about my heritage, it was quickly dispelled when I opened my mouth to speak. Usually, after uttering just one or two syllables, I found myself interrupted by the oft-repeated question: “you’re not from around here, are ya?”

After just 7 months in eastern Tennessee, the boys and I were again transferred; this time to western Tennessee and McNairy County. I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Louie and Augie that they would have no need of a snowboard in Ramer. I had replaced my front license plate with an orange “T” and learned that eating the top part of the turnip – known as “greens” - was wholly acceptable. I had acquired a taste for barbeque and biscuits and drank sweet tea even when it was “out of season” in the northern climes. I was ready. I was going to fit in, this time. But, try as I might, I still heard the occasional “you’re not from around here, are ya.” Clearly, I had a bit of work left to do.

Time passed, the boys became active in school and sports, and I continued to learn the ways of my new home. I learned to speak more slowly and the useful all-purpose word – ya’ll. I learned that gravy wasn’t necessarily brown, there is no singular form for the word ‘grits,’ a slugburger wasn’t some type of insecticide for garden pests, and that the first ingredient of any recipe worth making was bacon. While I will never be “born and bred,” I am, somewhat unofficially, from here. After six years of assimilation, this is, most definitely, my home.

The Bible has something to say about fitting in; about being recognizable as different. In Romans 12:2, Paul instructs us this way: “ And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Further, we are told in Matthew 5:16 to “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Quite clearly, there is a Biblical mandate to remain separate - not to glorify ourselves - but to so radiantly reflect the love of Jesus that others cannot help but want to be in our company; to be like we are and to have what we have. While I worked so hard to fit in to my new surroundings, (not surprisingly, there wasn’t one single person who really wanted to learn how to speak with my super-cool Minnesotan accent); as Christians, we are to draw others to the Lord by virtue of our identifiable difference.

Easily done, right? Well, not for me. I fail daily, perhaps minute by minute, to show others the light of Jesus. My candle may not only be hidden under a basket, at times it is completely extinguished! I am impatient and haughty; judgmental and unkind. In short, I fit right in with the rest of the human race. But our precious Lord and Savior Jesus, extends to me His grace and tenderly redirects my steps. He reminds me that I am a child of the King; anointed and appointed by the Most High to be in this world, yet not of it; to draw others to HIM.

After six wonderful years in McNairy County, the hockey stick is gone; the snowboard has found another home and my boys and I have found a way to “be from here.” We have forged a sense of sameness among dear, adoptive friends. But never let us forget that we are tasked with the joyous burden of bringing the light of Jesus to those who may not know Him. Let us never blend so completely into our surroundings that the line between our worldly self and our ransomed self becomes blurred. When others see us, may they see Jesus and be drawn to Him. Their very lives depend on it.

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