the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.I have been thinking about culture shock a lot recently. As missionaries moving to a foreign culture, it is something that you count on experiencing. The scary thing about it is that you don’t know how it will play out in your particular circumstances and for how long. Culture shock makes you grumpy and sometimes causes you to act in a way that you wouldn’t normally act–like reacting strongly to little things that don’t really matter. Culture shock can slowly build over time and cause you to reach an explosion point. Attitudes stink, emotions are heightened, ugly words are spoken, feelings are hurt… culture shock is not fun.I have been thinking a lot about it lately because of our new teammates’ arrivals. I think back to how everything was so new and exciting when we arrived but how slowly culture shock crept in among us. It is interesting to sit back and observe my new teammates as they arrive with the same excitement, but how many of them are experiencing the frustrations of not fully understanding the culture here. Culture learning is a significant part of adjustment to a new home in a foreign country. Our team is doing a 3 month long intensive culture study of various elements in the culture. Sometimes understanding where people are coming from helps to give more patience in those times of “I hate it here, because I just don’t get it!”Just today, I walked into the city center to locate two items: bubble wrap and cardboard tubes (for storing some of our posters and paintings for travel). I asked FIVE different Peruvians where I could locate these items, and they all sent me to the wrong area to buy them. Sixth one was the charm for me today. I have been here six years, and I still experience major frustrations with things like this. I remember Bill Richardson, our team mentor, telling us to prioritize a list of things that need to get done in the day. He told us that if we accomplished one of those things, it was a good day. Sometimes it takes a significant part of the morning to locate bubble wrap and tubes. 🙂On the flip side, I am thinking a lot about reentry to our host culture. Though many things drive me crazy here, many things in this foreign culture have become our norm for living. In just a few months, we will again experience what they call “reverse culture shock.” I am curious and scared how that will play out in our lives. But I know that I will have to be just as aware of it as when we made our move to Peru.If you are a Christian and you read this, please pray for our new teammates as they go through culture shock. Pray for patience toward each other and those that they live near. Pray for them to learn to understand more fully the worldview of Peruvians.Also, I ask for your prayers on our behalf. It will be a huge adjustment to go back to things in our home culture. For our children, Peru is their norm. Living in the U.S. will be very different in what they are used to here. Punctuality is different, school routines are different, social cues can be different. Sometimes, when you constantly feel the differences, it makes you super cranky. I expect those days to come, and I can only depend on the Spirit to help me change my attitude when it happens.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”–Matthew 5:3
I got into one of those ruts just recently where I found myself running around constantly “doing good things” for God and wondering why I was always so tired. You know? Doing things for him, but forgetting who he is. God is very clear that we must constantly seek him, pursue him. He clearly says to be still and know that he is God. I have a hard time with being still sometimes because there is so much for me to do. Hear that word? Me. He is our strength, and boy do I know that I need that strength in this world. So I am back on track with trying to refuel in the mornings. I had always heard the book pictured above as a recommendation, and about a year ago, it was a freebie offered on Kindle Amazon books. I was looking through my Kindle library for a book to help guide me in my meditations, and I decided to go with this one. The title couldn’t have been more perfect.
Tozer ends each chapter with a prayer, and his first prayer absolutely resonated with my heart:
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Isn’t that absolutely beautiful?
This morning was no different. The title of Chapter 2 is “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing.” You remember that part where Jesus talks about giving up everything for him, taking up your cross? That has got to be one of the hardest parts of following Jesus. When presenting the story to someone new, I always spend quite a bit of time making sure the student is aware of this teaching and how hard it is. Following Christ is not a walk in the park. He says to give up all of ourselves. Man alive that is hard!
Tozer writes a beautiful piece on understanding the beatitude written to the poor in spirit. I think that most of us hear the word “poor” and automatically associate it with not having material things. Materials are part of it, but Tozer takes Abraham as an example. Abraham was very wealthy because the Lord had blessed him. And Abraham honored God with those things. But apparently, as Tozer points out, Isaac became the idol and delight of his heart. Isaac was the representation of all things good for the future of Abraham’s people. He was the promise. And what does God end up doing with Abraham? He sends him away to sacrifice Isaac. He wants to purify Abraham from “an uncleansed love.” We know the story. Abraham is obedient to God. And he thinks in his heart that if he slays the son, God has the power to resurrect him. He trusts God. He is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in his life.
Abraham had everything materially, but “he possessed nothing.” This is giving it all up. We have to take “my,” “mine,” “me” out of the equation, and know that it is all God’s. And he promises to take care of us. Tozer presents this idea so well in his book. I will quote a bit from this chapter:
Things had been cast out forever. They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, “Abraham is rich,” but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal. There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.
Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson) (2011-03-24). The Pursuit of God (pp. 26-27). . Kindle Edition.
I will be thinking much more about this chapter. Even as a Christian, I struggle with the “mine” mentality. Now that we have children, I understand even more how hard it is to not turn my family into an idol.
I was cleaning out some things this morning (you know, we are moving in 5 months!!!). I am very sentimental when it comes to letters or notes written by loved ones. I came across the letter that my mom sent with us 6 years ago. Oh how the tears flowed when reading it. Our parents certainly are not perfect, but Greg and I are beyond blessed to have parents that “gave us up.” I hear of missionaries who do not receive their parents blessing to go and serve. What a sacrifice for the missionary to give up that relationship to family when called to the field. But today, I want to thank God for our parents. They were so sad to see us go, but they raised us to do so. They taught us to follow after God. It is really easy to say that to your little children, but when God asks you to sacrifice their lives later in life, for me that is a test of if you have truly given it all to him. Will we trust his promise that all will be taken care of? Do we see our children as ours, mine? Or are they His?
Thank you, Mom, Dad, Vicki, for being willing to give up several of your most precious treasures: your children, time with your children, your grandchildren. But I can promise you, that God has blessed your sacrifice.
It is ironic that she says she is excited to see us in January. Because that is when I will see her in 2015. We lived with them 6 months before going to Peru, and we will live with them 6 months after living in Peru. What beautiful bookends in this journey of faith!