Monday, June 19, 2006

For my culture part 2

Culture shock. As far as I can tell it is the term used for emotional and mental distress and confusion that comes from experiencing the differences between a persons normal country/culture and a country/culture which they find themselves.

I think that is what I may have been experiencing the last few days. I really didn't see it coming as (like I said in my last post) I was okay with coming back here. But in retrospect coming back again has made the differences between New Zealand and the UK all the more apparent.

What I have realised is that I have a set of presuppositions that my life runs upon. Or more specifically that my life in the UK was run upon. They took a number of sizes and shapes, from theology to relationships to practical day to day life stuff. I suspect that we all have them. Whether or not we do and whatever are presuppositions may be, they may or may not be right or wrong but they are things that we take as givens for day to day life.

Across a few days last week I begin to realise that mine didn't work in New Zealand and that was a very unsettling experience and had some bad effects.

In terms of theology I realised that a number of folk disagreed with my view on a few issues that back in the UK was not the case. Most were secondary issues that we could agree to disagree on but because it happened a number of times it had the bad effect of putting me on the defensive. Confidence on doctrine should never rest in whether it is held by the largest number of people. What I should have done was gone back to the bible and re-examined my views but what I did instead was I turned into a theology policeman; I would pick up and comment on anything I perceived as being of the mark, now matter how minor it may be.

Relationally I again became aware that though I have friends here I still have some way to go in terms of having very close friends like those who I had spent time with in the UK. Perhaps what I realised is that history is important. The length of time you have known someone affects how much you trust each other and strangely so does the memories of life; be it fun, sad or otherwise.

Practically I wish that New Zealand had central heating rather than thermal clothes and electric blankets!

All these things in isolation would be okay but put them all together and it becomes very unsettling and isolating.

Last weekend was my churches men's weekend away. It was great; a chance to think through what it means to be men of God off the back of some helpful and insightful teaching and a chance to get to know some guys from church. But because of the unsettlingness of last week I struggled to get past the fact that New Zealand guys really like sport and I didn't all that much. But in the final session we talked a little about our identity being in Christ (Ephesians 1 v 13 to 18). I realised to my horror that I was defining myself by all the wrong things: what I believed on secondary issues, who my friends were and what I did in terms if ministry. I needed to repent of this.

Yet I still felt isolated. I looked at my life I realised I was still an alien. The truths I had learned as to not being alone did not move me either.

My church has just finished a series on the names of God. We took a brief look at all the ones we had covered and in a quiet time of reflection God spoke to me. I realised that He is unchanging as is His Gospel (Hebrews 13 v 8) and I have a choice as to how I respond to him and how He reveals himself in His word.

That was my revelation for the weekend. The presuppositions that I run my life upon my change but that is okay because God is unchanging as is His word. Providing my presuppositions are always based upon that fundamental truth then change need not be so traumatic. I also have a choice. I can chose to focus on me or I can lift my focus to God and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for us in Christ.

What was the result? Joy in and towards God, thankfulness for all His gifts to me both here and in the UK, inner peace and conversation. Without knowing anything of how I was feeling some new friends I had made over the weekend from Church asked me how I was adjusting to my return and it was helpful to share with them.

1 comment:

Mark Hodges said...

Sounds like you've been through some quite tough times, but having something which challenges your perspective and broadens your horizons (especially in the eternal sense!) is always good I think! Will be praying for you :)

PS. Just wondering if you got an email I sent to you a while ago - not sure if it made it as my email can be a little dodgy!