Transitions often make it difficult for me to know who I am. I would like that to be different.
Oddly enough, one of my “Strength Finders” strengths is flexibility. I began to seriously question this “strength” sometime at the beginning of this year because I was flattened by a particular transition. Totally undone.
At that time I realized that what makes me flexible is my great intolerance for not fitting. It’s like a big splinter that I MUST get out RIGHT NOW.
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I’m not talking about morals or anything. I’m talking about cultural things which are not connected to morals- bed times, food habits, conversation topics, clothing, time orientation, what communicates respect or what is considered rude. All of these physical manifestations of culture come from underlying values and when I first enter a new culture those differences feel unbearable to me. So I have a tendency to wrestle hard with myself in order that those things not be points of conflict….
But sometimes it takes a while to discover the value behind the behavior. And until I discover this, I feel a kind of sickness as I force myself to conform.
This is where culture shock comes in… at some point there is an internal rebellion against conforming. At some point my values feel strongly offended. Unfortunately, instead of this being clear and obvious, the pain of that splinter radiates outward so that it feels like everything is in pain. The rebellion multiplies because of this radiation.
It might seem funny that I’m having culture shock after having lived in Colorado Springs for two years. And… it’s Colorado Springs, not Bangkok. But what can I say? I’m sensitive to cultural nuances- especially when I’m not just a visitor but an official resident.
What I hope to discover isn’t so much how to fit into this particular place, but how to find my identity so securely in God’s hands that transition rocks me a little less severely. Is that possible? Is that an appropriate hope?
I had this funny conversation with God the other day. In the midst of all of these shoulds crowding in on me (based partially upon cultural conflicts) I realized I was praying in the wrong direction. I asked God, then, “What should I be asking you?” I felt like he said, “How can I love you more?” Huh. Okay. “God, how can I love you more?” In response to this, I thought I heard him say, “Let me love you.”
At the time this was funny to me because it seemed entirely unrelated to my struggle, but as I process these thoughts on culture shock and identity, I realize that this is completely related. I cannot give what I don’t have. I cannot be who I am not. If I really receive the love that God is giving me, this will pour out to others and not only will I be accepting myself (as I am, not as I think I should be) but I will also be accepting those around me (as they are, not as I think they should be).
So, although I do feel a splinter and the discomfort is radiating outward into unrelated moments, I am hanging onto a particularly invigorating hope. That hope is in God who has given me the incredible job of accepting his love. Although I have not always been great at this job, I won’t give up. And I know he won’t give up on me.