Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Living our Religion

Today’s reflection from Forward Day by Day is a tough one. In the Gulf, there is a tradition of thfadl and thfadli (the second is what you say to a woman) which means, literally, “you are to be preferred.” You are supposed to outwait the other, to allow the other to take precedence.

I have one Kuwaiti friend – you know who you are – who simply cannot be out-thfadle-d. She out-thfadle-s me every time. 🙂

But when I read this passage, and think of how I live in Kuwait, I find myself thinking “Guilty! Guilty as charged!”

When I see a long line in front of me at the health department, and someone comes and ushers me to the front, yes, I have gratefully taken advantage, taken preference over those who continue to wait. I have scowled when people try to shove their basket in front of me in the supermarket. And in traffic – when I “thfadl”, it has nothing to do with politeness and preference, and everything to do with sarcasm and frustration.

Today’s reading reminds me I still have a long road in front of me when it comes to learning to love my neighbor, and put others first.

Romans 12:1-21. Outdo one another in showing honor.

The Episcopal Church (and some other denominations, too) is vexed these days by rancorous disputes about authority and sex. Name-calling, smirking, and thinly veiled anger sometimes characterize church gatherings. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that we ourselves are faithful and true, but those others are faithless and false. We demean and dismiss other Christians. It’s hard to find a Christian today who outdoes others in showing honor (except honor shown to those lined up on one’s own side). Is it any wonder that many people outside the church want nothing to do with us?

I long for the day when we will approach those who differ from us and say: “I agree with almost nothing you are advocating. I see God, the world, and our faith through different lenses than you do. But I know that God loves us both and has sent his Son to forgive and redeem us both. I know that Christ lives within us both. Therefore I honor you and join you in prayer and in worshiping our common Lord. I shall remain silent today so that you may speak and I may learn from you. I thank God for you because I see Jesus when I look at you.”

May 13, 2009 - Posted by | Character, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Spiritual


  1. If I see an elderly or kids I hate watching them wait so I let them in front of me, it pisses other people. I don’t care it’s the right thing to do, otherwise it’s annoying and unthoughtful when some girls don’t respect the queue

    Comment by pearls | May 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. I wish I knew your Mama, Pearls. I would tell her what a great young lady she raised. Raising good kids is tough, and you never know if you did it right until your friends report back to you . . . is it that way in Kuwait?

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 13, 2009 | Reply

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