No to Cheese Pizza, But Yes to Green Pastures

“We don’t have cheese pizza.”

I was standing in the very first pizza shop to open in our city in northeastern China. We had yearned for this day for months. Forget Santa — PIZZA was coming to town!

The menu had 3 options: pepperoni, Hawaiian, or supreme. And ridiculous me: I tried to order plain cheese.

“We don’t have.”

“Ok. How about I order the pepperoni pizza, pay for it, but when you make it, you just don’t put the pepperoni on it.”

Confused eyes. “But we only have pepperoni pizza.”

“But, I’ll pay for the pepperoni. You just can keep it, and I’ll take the rest of the pizza.”

“We don’t have cheese pizza.”

You can see where this story is going.

Sometimes life overseas made me feel like my strengths and weaknesses had been given a dose of steroids. Everything got magnified.

My strengths got magnified: you’re an uber-extrovert who loves working with all kinds of people. Here are thousands of students who love you and want to spend time with you. YES! I soared.

You struggle with impatience and get really frustrated with inefficiency. Here, stand in this line for hours and hours for a visa which you may or may not get at the end of it all.

Or, just try to order a cheese pizza.

If we let it, life overseas will soften a lot of our rough edges. Many times life felt like sandpaper, like I was constantly experiencing inner friction with the world around me. Why am I so easily frustrated? Why am I getting so angry at this teammate? There are simply lots of parts of me that are not super Christ-like. God has graciously not given up on me and continues to gently soften those hard places through life in another culture. Somehow cross-cultural living strips away lots of our protective layers and the real us gets uncovered. And God’s gentle sandpaper changes us. It is a good thing.

I’ve also learned in my years of living overseas that God has wired me. He made me! Funny how childlike and yet profound this truth is. And since He made me, He also poured into me the personality He crafted just for me.

In Psalm 16, where David writes, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” I am reminded that God made me a certain way. He gave me personality boundaries — a space in which I am made to live. He poured into me things that I am. And the things that I am not. I’m not meant to live outside of His pasture. I’m meant to live inside His particular design for me.

I’m slowly learning that everything our great God has wired into me — everything! – is all part of His boundary for me so that I live within the pasture He made for me. My personality, my gifts, and even my limitations are all part of His masterful design.

I’ll never be good at numbers or details. I should never be put in charge of logistics for a big event. Really – never. But, wow am I thankful for my teammates and friends who can and do.

So, instead of resisting and banging my head against the gate trying to break out of the pasture, I am learning instead to surrender to His design…and be grateful for it. He made me. He wired me. Even my limitations.

That’s not to say that He doesn’t stretch us and grow us. He will invite us to places of the pasture we didn’t know we had. But, all within His loving Shepherd hand and perfect design for us.

Give us grace, Lord, to embrace the pasture You gave us, and celebrate the pastures You gave to other people. They are good places to dwell.

Any other cheese pizza moments to share? How have your strengths and weaknesses been given steroids?

5 Comments

  1. Melinda September 20, 2017

    So good and so true! If we can recognize how God has wired us, and learn to give thanks for who He has made each of us to be, we won’t fall into the comparison trap, but rather be able to champion others in their strengths where we are weak. How freeing is that!!
    It starts with learning to love ourselves…after all Jesus did tell us to love others AS we love ourselves, not to love them more than ourselves or better than ourselves, but AS. Lord show us how to live in the AS! Experiencing and receiving the love of Jesus into every part of our heart (even what we find unattractive but Jesus sees as perfect and beautiful) frees us to love ourselves and others with our whole heart.

    1. Renee September 21, 2017

      Thanks so much for that, Melinda! Yes – it is so liberating, isn’t it? Thanks for your encouraging words!

  2. Cecily September 21, 2017

    Love your pizza story, Renee! Try thinking outside of the box, people! (No pun intended.)
    As we have reflected on personality in our CG this week, I have been so thankful that the Lord sent me overseas to change me. I can’t imagine the person I would be if I had stayed in the comfort of my own country. I fear what I may have become! Soooooo many rough edges being smoothed out and so much of me that needed to be exposed has been and presently is being!
    It has been a very messy process, but what masterpiece is created without a mess?! May I cooperate with Him so that I may be a fine piece of His workmanship when He finishes all of His good work in me. Meanwhile, I am still great loved and carefully attended to!

    1. Renee September 21, 2017

      I love your sentence: “What masterpiece is created without a mess?” Yes — may we rest in His good Shepherd Hand at work in us. I’m so thankful that our God is not afraid to get right into the middle of our messiness. What a kind God He is. Thanks so much, Cecily!

  3. Raven Cruz September 21, 2017

    My cheese pizza moment happened this week. A friend and I went to our single terminal airport for the extra special ice cream. Extra special meaning you can get real chocolate or caramel sauce poured over the top. The standard is two scoops of your chosen sauce. However, I wanted one of each. I’ll let you guess how it ended up! “No, you cannot one scoop of both. We only allow chocolate or caramel.” Um, but why can’t I have one of both? Loved reading this! Living overseas has made my strengths and weaknesses even more apparent, but in it, I’ve learned to be thankful for both and celebrate others strengths.

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