A Different Kind of Opposite {The Grove: Opposites}

A Different Kind of Opposite

When I think of the word opposite, I generally think of definitions like different or contrary. I think of things that are complete opposites like apples and oranges or hot and cold.

I did some digging into the word opposite and found that it can be used as an adjective, noun or preposition.

As an adjective, we see opposite used to describe things or situations as different or contrary.

As a noun, we see the situation itself as the opposite.

As a preposition, we see the actual position of what is being called opposite.

Dictionary.com says that as a preposition, opposite can be defined as “across from, facing, or in a role complementary or parallel to.”

{I’m not an English major so hopefully you’re following with me in these definitions.}

In reading through the different ways that the word opposite can be used, I was struck with how much my life overseas fully encompasses all three uses for the same word.

My life overseas, whether as an adjective or a noun, is definitely different and contrary to what my life would be back in the States. No doubt about that. I see the “apples and oranges” comparisons daily.

In America, I blow dry my hair every day, put on makeup, wear jeans, drive a car, and put dishes in a dishwasher. I don’t think twice about walking through the neighborhood by myself. I would never have bars on my windows or have a fully walled or guarded yard.

In Africa, I rarely do my hair or makeup. I wear dresses almost every day. I never drive myself anywhere. I handwash dishes 2-4 times a day. We have bars on all our windows and live in a walled, guarded house and yard.

Opposite ways of living. Apples and oranges. Hot and cold.

The above examples are just surface level differences. Imagine all the opposites that could be said about what is under the surface of our lives overseas. Things like poverty, lostness, darkness, and on and on I could go.

But as I continued to think about this theme, it was the prepositional use of opposite that caught my eye.

Do I see my life here as “across from, facing, or in a role complementary or parallel to?”

Can my life in Africa be seen as parallel and complementary to my life in the States?

Are they seated facing each other as two people would at a dinner table? Conversing, laughing, sharing and communing together?

Honestly, living overseas most often feels like two people that are sitting on opposite sides of the room with their backs to each other.

But what if the things that I think are opposites actually have things in common? What if I drew parallels rather than differences? What if I complemented rather than separated?

Apples and oranges are both fruit.

Hot and cold are both temperatures.

I can draw commonalities between them if I look hard enough.

When I choose to see the opposites of my life with this definition, these ways of living can sit facing each other, finding things in common and even laughing on shared ground.

I can learn and grow as I watch the parallels unfold.

I can see “this life and that life” as playing roles opposite one another while still complementing each other on the same stage.

I had to ask myself, “Why do I always see things as contrary, competing, and completely different?”

As I pondered this thought, I decided that I love the picture of these two pieces of my life sitting parallel to each other, complementing the differences and working in tandem from one side of the globe to another.

I felt challenged to see the opposite things as prepositions rather than adjectives or nouns.

I started noticing ways that one life complements the other.

I decided to see the opposites at the table together.

I haven’t fully worked this out for myself yet. I’m still pondering and picturing the opposites through this new lens. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts and examples!

Have you ever thought of your life overseas in this way? Can you see the opposites as complementary or parallel rather than different and contrary?

How does that help you process the many opposites of our lives overseas and our lives in our passport country?

Photo by Stock Photography on Unsplash

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  1. Elizabeth September 19, 2019

    Seeing the opposites as complementary or parallel — YES! You’re speaking my language here.

  2. Linda Ringenberg September 20, 2019

    I really liked the thought that this article introduces! I think, in a way, it denotes that we’ve “arrived” at our new location when we’re willing to have our old life and new life sit across from each other and dialogue. It’s a healthy way to adjust. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Bayta Schwarz October 2, 2019

    Jenilee, when I read this, I wanted to yell “YES!” And somehow I then failed to comment… Looking back, I am so thankful for the way different cultures have enriched and enlarged my view of the world (and of the Lord!)! In the situation, I can often find it hard to look beyond the different (and maybe that’s ok as a stage on the journey) but when I do, when I’m willing to engage and wrestle with what grates, when I allow myself to be influenced and changed, there is so much to gain!

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