She found herself in the strange space between two worlds—a space where she was fumbling forward, pioneering a new expression of the many identities that were dynamically intersecting: Roma, woman, unmarried, educated, Christian.
All of these identity titles can be viewed as stagnant labels, conjuring up certain associations, assumptions, and judgements.
But in her willingness to be in the space between two worlds—leaving the expectations of her Roma world and yet always seen FIRST in Eastern Europe as a Roma—she forges a new pathway that is deeply challenging and profoundly prophetic.
Growing up in a poor Roma village in Southern Romania, she had the desire for something different. Her father and mother, their own stories beginning in dire poverty yet possessing creative and resilient spirits, perhaps lit this spark. When she wanted to go to a good high school which would require her to leave the village and live in-residence, her wise grandfather pulled her aside one day.
“Only you can choose,” he said. “If you leave this world now, it will be forever. Our world will not be able to fit you back into its place.”
She went, but the new world was filled with heartbreak, cruel realities, and discrimination. No one wanted to be near her, to touch her, because she was a Gypsy. She did not tell her parents of her torment, because she did not want to worry them or cause them pain.
She persevered, graduated from high school, went on to college. She received internships and opportunities, but when she came back home she found her grandfather had been right.
No one knew what to make of her anymore. People felt sorry for her because she was unmarried and had no children. And she found it harder to find things to talk about with her community. She grew depressed, listless, wondering what direction her life should take.
On a whim, she applied for a Master’s program in a different country and was accepted. She struggles to keep up because she is operating in her third language. She has many questions about her future, her path, and what it all means. She is no longer the person she once was, but she is not quite sure who she is or who she should be.
I doubt her path will ever be easy, and yet the very act of her life—refusing to be defined and categorized either by her own people or the society-at-large—embodies a poignant witness that speaks to our own journeys as the People of God.
We are also in that somewhat ambiguous space between two worlds, but this ‘third space’ does not take us out of our present existence. In fact, it deepens our awareness of our present lives so that we see every piece of good art with the longing for perfect beauty, we allow the sound of stirring music to lead our souls forward, we feel the pain of injustice with deep anger and resolution. It is in this disorienting ‘third space’ where we sense the creative voice of God forging our path through the brambles and bushes.
Her courage and resiliency inspire a critique of complacency. We may think we are secure in our neatly formed worlds of understanding—but are we really?