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Sunday, September 26, 2010

cultures within cultures

So here we are in the good old US of A where both Scott and I were born and raised.  And where both of us now have to work hard to fit in.  Yes, we've changed, and we've fallen behind many changes here.  But I've also noticed that the nature of HMA (home ministry assignment, the process of re-visiting and thanking and hopefully inspiring a few supporters) is also very cross-cultural.  When we suddenly decide to return to all the places and friends that have made us who we are, we find that there is a huge diversity of cultures that we have to cross, that we lived rather complex lives, and left a trail that is far from straight.  This is accentuated by our own current uncertainty and rootlessness, and by the unnatural time compression of experiencing a decade's worth of friendship in a month.  

It's fun, but also a bit disorienting.  Appalachian country folk, with ATV's and guns.  Suburban family, with kids in umpteen activities, committed to church and neighbors.  Urban poor, deep in the inner city for the duration.  Western ranch, expansive sky and land-rooted values.  Wealthy and generous, or some who used-to-be-wealthy, now pressed financially.  Academic, specialists, pursuing the frontiers of knowledge in their field.  Student-simplicity, still forming lifestyles and opinions.  Small-town, integrated and settled.  More suburbs, with gracious everything-matches kind of houses, and space to enfold us.  Coastal environmentalist.  Historic farm.  Homeschool protective conservative.  In each of these cultures we land with our own mix of messiness, and try to understand a bit of real life for our friends, try to fit in enough to relate and connect, try not to feel to discouraged by the contrasts which show how short we fall, and then we move on.  One day we can be discussing AIDS research with the people who are actually doing it, another day clapping to spirited gospel music in a mostly black church, another day making small talk with successful and relaxed Californians on the sideline of a roller-hockey game.  

We have some really amazing friends, people with vision and passion, people who are raising remarkable children, people who agonize over global warming and middle-East peace and authentic gardening, and people who seem far removed from any of that.  And perhaps BECAUSE they are all such good and interesting people, I find myself trying too hard, to change quickly with each new venue.  And this time that is supposed to be the restful feel-at-home time has become a tiring one.  So, please forgive us, who are supposed to have the stepping-over-culture-line dance down pat.  Realize that we love you all, and that we want to affirm your uniqueness.  And that we are too weak and unsettled to hold our own adequately in this rich and various mix.  

Until Heaven, then.  We salute the palette of cultures, and continue to press on.


Bethany said...

That was exactly my experience in my whirlwind visit to the States! Jumping around, trying to hard to fit in while at the same time wanting to be OK being different. We're looking at John 15 this morning at our teacher training, and I've been praying (again) to abide in Jesus, to find life and stability in Him, especially when it's clear I can't abide anywhere else for long. Miss you! I'll write you soon about my Kenya in January plans...

T & T Livesay said...

I found your blog a few months ago before you landed in the usa. I have enjoyed checking in and reading your thoughts because you are a bit older (and I know wiser) and you've been at cross-cultural work a lot longer than us ... but you help me feel normal. We struggle so much to figure out how to be gracious and straddle the two cultures well. We had a long break due to the Earthquake and we finally go home at the end of the year. I appreciate your honesty about the confusion you feel and identify with you.

Heidi said...

isn't it a brilliant diversity God gives us to interact with? And you're so right, with increasing brilliance comes increasing challenges in blending in...I'm feeling it for sure...not sure what the solution is, but like Bethany, God's reminding me of who He is, for me last night in Matt. 11...that somehow even as God over all of the brilliant diversity and staggering heart ache, His yoke is easy and His burden is you!