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Psalm 39:12

Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help;
do not be deaf to my weeping.
I dwell with you as a foreigner,
a stranger, as all my ancestors were.NIV

As a foreigner

I was crossing into Canada with my young daughter once, in the days before you needed a passport. I had picked her up from school in downtown Detroit and we were going for tea (or hot chocolate) and a brownie, then a little browsing/adventure in downtown Windsor. Only this time the border control agent asked me for Anna’s birth certificate. I didn’t have it with me. We had to pull over and go inside. Suddenly I was an alien, in a foreign country without proper papers.

There, on the wrong side of the border, we were at the mercy of others. I couldn’t turn around and go back. I had no legal standing or rights. I was dependent on the agent’s mercy, his willingness to believe that I was really Anna’s father and to forgive me for not having her birth certificate with me.

“I dwell with you as a foreigner,” write the poet. He understands that he has no rights before God, no privileges. God doesn’t owe him anything. He can make no demands. He is dependent on God’s mercy.

“I dwell with you as a foreigner,” writes the poet. And in that simple sentence is a profound spiritual truth. We stand together, the human race. We are all aliens before the mystery of the divine. We are all here by mercy not by right. We are all the same before heaven’s light.

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