When we all entered our second culture, something interesting happened. We lost ourselves. Some of us couldn’t find our microwaves and others of us were trying to get cream of chicken soup out of a live chicken. We lost our adulthood, our meticulously organized schedules, and many of us have almost lost our sanity! Where do you turn? Here’s my story.
When I moved to Central Asia, my walk with the Lord spiraled downward. How could that be? I am a global worker for goodness sake! A chosen one of God! How could it be that I, of all people, could be lacking intimacy with the Almighty? But, after nine months of this ongoing lethargy, I snapped. This was unacceptable.
I begged for mercy that night, begging for revelation. I was continually confessing the same sins: complacency, lack of passion, lack of intimacy. I would beg for forgiveness, promise faithfulness, and then fail again. What was the root? I asked. There must be something more that separates me from the Lover of my soul, something hindering my walk, something causing Him to hide His face from me.
I examined my life. How had I changed? It didn’t take long to see that I had become negative! Ugh. How could it be? How I loathe it in others and detest it in myself. My negativism is not an outward really blatant kind like, “Isn’t this food nasty; I hate this country.” Rather, I had a subtle kind of dissatisfaction, a subversive mindset, eyes that notice the bad, quick to make little sideways comments and sarcastic jokes. But I love it here! I really love this country, the people, and my job here. I love studying language and making new friends. There are problems, but that’s just life anywhere. But what am I negative about? If not this country, then what, or who?
I dug deeper and found my answer. I think I know it all and have a right, therefore, to criticize anyone that is not me.
- I know how to speak the language better than so-and-so.
- I can make the national food better than what’s-her-name, in fact, I live with nationals.
- I have the best missiological principles and my denomination is more correct than all the others.
- I read more, love better, and communicate more freely than everyone else.
Can you believe I really think these things? It sickens me to write it because I know it’s the truth. But why? Why had I become like this? Where had grace gone? When had I lost sight of my humanity and come to consider myself so worthy?
It happened the day I moved to this country. Let me explain. When I came to my new home, I became an infant. Every day, so many times a day, I needed help. I needed people to walk me down the street, to take me to the store, to get my visa, a Social Security number, all of that. I had to ask someone how to flush the toilet in my own home. I’m in the hands of uneducated people who I trust to teach me their language–in fact, I pay them to do so. I’m not an expert on anything. No one ever seeks my advice or appreciates my thoughts. I have nothing to offer. I am a learner: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had been for nine months. Now, all of us have found ourselves in this situation. It’s the reality of the first term. In response to it, we have three options:
- Run home. I can’t handle it. I hate it. I can’t do it. I’m leaving.
- Give it to God. Turn to Him in praise and honor, recognizing my weakness. Allow my struggles to be a lesson in trust where I learn to truly rely on my Father for everything. I flounder in the country but flourish in my relationship with the Lord.
- Compensation. I simply got sick of being ignorant and started to compensate. I may not be able to speak your language, or get a good price for these tomatoes, but I do have the correct theology–unlike you. I may not be able to cook good food, but you don’t really understand your culture as well I as I do. Secretly, my soul was crying out, “I’m valid! What I say counts! I’m an important person!”
And so, it would appear the root of my lack of intimacy was pride, the root of pride was inadequacy, and the root of inadequacy was selfishness. Why am I “me” focused? I spend all my time trying to make myself valuable, when my job here is to magnify Someone else.
I had forgotten why I am here. Not to be valuable, but as a sacrifice, poured out on His altar because I love Him. I am not here to “make a difference,” or even to survive, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I came to this country because I love Him and would do anything He asked. If He asked me to sit and twiddle my thumbs for two years, would I be willing to do it? Even if everyone just watched me and said, “Why aren’t more things happening over there? Why is she just twiddling her thumbs?” If my Lord asked me to twiddle my thumbs, would I? It would seem so meaningless to me.
But, I did not come here to be meaningful, useful, or comfortable. I came because He asked me to. I did not come here because I thought, ah, over there I’ll be appreciated, and life will be easy! I knew it would be difficult, but I did think that I would have intimacy with my Savior.
I thought I was “in” with Him in that way and I could handle anything with Him by my side. But He was not by my side. I had turned my back on Him and worshipped my value. I gave up worship of the Creator for the created, worshiping that which He wanted me to pour out for Him: me.
Oh, Lord save me! Save me from myself. My evil sinful heart daily magnified itself. I feel small and like to feel big, so I make everything else small in comparison.
Ah, the tender grace of our Lord as He waited patiently for me to finally be sickened enough of my sin to return to Him. What about you? How is your heart? When you live in a land where every day is a lesson in humility, you have three options. Which will you choose? Will you leave? Will you magnify yourself to compensate? Or will you turn in humility to the Lover of your soul in praise and honor, relying on Him in all things? Next time, I think I’ll try to do that first.
View the original print magazine where this article was first published.