Before returning to America last June, we read up on a phenomenon called ‘Reverse Culture Shock.’ The basic idea is that when returning to our home culture, we must reconcile the changes that have taken place in us, in our family, friends, and church, and in American culture. The changes can be quite shocking! We were glad that our mission’s board gave us a ‘heads up.’
But now we find we are facing a whole new set of emotions. I have decided to name it ‘Reverse-Reverse Culture Shock.’ Let me give you an example.
A few weeks ago, I was enjoying the samples at Costco, a local warehouse store. I just love to try all the new foods—it is my favorite lunch spot! I tried the new Jamaica Hot and Crazy Sauce on meatballs, thinking that my husband would really like it. I thought about how much all of the guys on our missions team love hot and spicy food. Maybe I should bring a jar of this hot sauce back with me. I looked at the jar—it was plastic, which is good because it would not break as easily en route. I looked at how big the jar was and checked to see how much the jar weighed. These are things that global worker wives spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about.
It was at this time that I had a ‘panic attack.’ I realized that Costco was going to come out with all kinds of new things in the next four years, and I was not going to know anything about it! I looked around the store, wondering what things I really needed to take with me. I fought the urge ‘to buy one of everything’ just in case I needed it. I had the bizarre thought, “I love Costco! I can leave America, but can I leave Costco?”
I stood there outwardly chewing my meatball smothered with Jamaican Hot and Crazy Sauce and inwardly struggling to let go of material things. I reminded myself that while living in Madagascar, there were very few things from America that we missed. In fact, we not only did not miss them, we forgot about their existence. I remembered how nice it was to be free of all that ‘stuff.’ I also told myself that there are only about 30 things that I regularly buy at Costco, so I certainly do not need one of everything!
In some ways, it is harder to return to Madagascar. The mystery and romance are gone. We know exactly what it will be like. We know what we can and cannot find at the markets. We have enjoyed the luxury and favorite foods of America for a year (the bathroom scale is showing this as well!). I find my fists clenching tighter to hold on, while Jesus beckons me to let go.
But in other ways, we are more excited to get back to Madagascar. We miss our global worker and Malagasy friends. Although we have LOVED church in English all year, we miss the joy and grace found in Malagasy services. The other day, my husband Nate skyped another global worker in Madagascar. This global worker was with a few Malagasy pastors, and Nate was able to speak with our Malagasy friends for a few minutes. It was wonderful to hear Malagasy spoken. It was not even the words that stirred my heart, but the cadence and melody of the language that I missed.
The Bible often tells us not to look back (remember what happened to Lot’s wife!), but to look forward. So we look forward to being free of materialism. After all, who needs Jamaican Hot & Crazy Sauce when I can buy Exotic and Unheard-of fruits and veggies in the open markets of Madagascar?! I look forward to changing my mantra from “I wonder what’s new at Costco?” to “I wonder what new thing God is going to do today?”