by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

My mamma has quoted Bible verses to me all of my life. So, perhaps it’s no wonder that regardless of the situation I’m in, a Bible verse comes to mind with some new lesson to teach.

It doesn’t even matter what the original context of the verse is or whether or not it makes sense for my current circumstances. In fact, it’s sometimes a curious fit, which is why I think the words capture my attention.

As I entered the plane for my journey to Italy, once again scripture came to my thought — “Enlarge the border of thy tent” — to be precise.

Actually, when I checked it later, the correct phrase is “Enlarge the place of thy tent.” (Isaiah 54:2) But there are Biblical references that talk about enlarging one’s border as well. These include two phrases, “…the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border” (Deut. 12:20) and “…that they might enlarge their border.” (Amos 1:13)

As I sat down on the plane, I immediately wrote in my journal: “Enlarge the border of thy tent. I have a feeling I will be learning the meaning of these words.”

Since I was soon to be leaving the “borders” of my country for the first time ever, it’s no surprise the word border come to mind. After all, I had not been able to get that fact out of thought for weeks!

Not long after I wrote my journal entry, a beautiful woman in appropriate Islamic attire sat down next to me. I couldn’t help but notice the prayer book in her hands that she continued to reference and clearly pondered prior to the plane’s take-off. Her actions reminded me that I should do the same and pray for everyone’s safe journey. And so I did.

The flight would be a long one from Boston to Paris — my stop before heading on to Verona, Italy. So, it would be natural to have a conversation with my neighbor. This proved interesting, since my neighbor spoke very little English, and I could not speak any other language but English!

Still, during the course of our flight, I learned quite a bit about her. She was a mother of many children. And one of her children was living with her sister in Boston finishing his high school years with plans to attend an American college, too. I gained respect and compassion for her commitment to the well-being of her children and the separation she was enduring as part of that commitment. Suddenly, I was more aware of what we had in common as mothers than any presumed differences. This was pretty big for me, since there was a time when the sight of her would have brought suspicion and fear.

Prior to my trip, I had reached the conclusion that God was indeed enlarging my border or He was making it possible for me to enlarge my border — whatever that was going to mean. And He wasn’t wasting any time helping me find out!

I don’t believe in coincidence or luck. I tend to view every situation and circumstance of my life as one to learn from and grow. So actually, I guess this whole idea of enlarging my border is not a new one. I’ve been aware for a few years now that I had many self-imposed boundaries, limits and confines that needed to be enlarged, widened, broadened and stretched in countless ways.

It wasn’t luck that I received an invitation to go to Italy. And it wasn’t coincidence that my plane neighbor was this woman.

And it wasn’t surprising that my flight was taking place on my dear husband’s birthday — an occasion I’ve never missed in our thirty years together. It’s funny because even though I was far away from my husband, it felt like he was with me. This may sound corny, but I think he so fills my heart that it’s impossible to feel separated from him. But it seems it required me being away from him to realize this fact!

There is no doubt in my mind that my concept of home has been enlarged by this trip. This topic may require another column to fully explore it. I’m in awe at how a person can be in a foreign country and feel at home. But I did! I’m certain that it had something to do with me realizing that God created the entire world without boundaries — borders we’ve named “countries.” And it took me leaving the comfort and familiarity of my own small “world” to give any thought to what this meant.

When we’re faced with a situation that is forcing us to stretch in some unexpected or unknown way— perhaps going through unchartered waters — we don’t need to be afraid. With God at the helm of our ship, we can’t help but travel through and beyond the confines of limited views and narrow opinions. And we learn more about a world without borders — the world God created for all of us to share together.