Where do I fit in?
The narrow doorway gave entrance to a banquet hall with a round table set for 10. Our weekend services at 611 Church had been wonderful as the Lord deeply touched hundreds with the message on “where do I fit in?” Hong Kong is a crowded place and this church of thousands is no different. We encourage each new member to join a cell group lest they be lost in the masses.
My host and dear friend Joshua Cheung asked me to wait a minute as, with an embarrassed chuckle, the waiter exchanged the normal size Chinese chair for a more-sturdy, heavy, wood one. You see, at events like this, I have difficulty fitting in. It used to be an awkward moment, trying to fit into the shapes and sizes of a different city, church, and culture; but, with years of practice, it has become a point of humor.
The seating pattern around the table is determined by the function of the participants. It is given that there are going to be several conversations going on at the same time. Joyful with testimonies of lives changed in their ministry departments, and very happy that all the work of the weekend is finished, the staff sit next to each other and celebrate another week of the goodness of the Lord. Their chatter fills the room.
The pastor and his wife sit at 12 o’clock with the guest and translator at the pastor’s right hand. One never sits until the pastor nods his head in approval of seat location. He is the “Father of the Family” in the case of 611 Church as we have all come a long way together and the church is built on relationship. We always wait for the nod. There is a lesson here.
Entering a crowded space with a new culture and language can be very intimidating for people. It is difficult to find a place to fit in. The new school, new office, new family, can be so terrifying that many shy away and never get to enjoy developing friendships. Of course, there is a risk involved in trying to fit in. At one of my first Chinese lunches, again with a pastor—but not Joshua—I dipped my shrimp in the finger bowl. It had a yellow tint and I thought it was some sort of butter dip. After 5 shrimp the Pastor lovingly told me what I was doing.
My size is always a point of amazement in Asia. But this is who I am and I fit into my clothes every day, so I have learned to make it a point of humor so we can all laugh together. Of course, I have endured lectures on herbs and diets and can probably write a paper and receive a doctorate on the subject.
Offense has to be taken, it cannot stand on its own. When not nurtured, it can blossom into humor and friendship.
Intimidated by a life change? I suggest entering quietly, receiving direction or asking for it, taking the lower role until invited to a higher place and most of all, putting the others at ease with a gentle smile and nod. Of course, you are not going to remember all their names and certainly they are checking you out, but relax, everybody at the table has gone through the same process.