Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Culture and Conviction

'Culture disorientation' has caused me to ask some searching questions over the last few months. The struggle of living in a culture that is so different to what I'm used to, and at times longing for home. I have grappled with how to deal with these feelings. How should I feel? Why do I feel like I feel? Where should I send my thoughts when I am feeling like this?

It's been a much needed wake-up call because it has made me question some of the foundations my life is built on. When I long to be in the UK simply because it is easier to live in a culture I am familiar with, I know that I am starting to treasure comfort over Christ. This is the first warning sign.

And when I think about the future and ask myself - where would I like to live? What would I like to do? I betray the fact that I value culture over conviction.

What I mean by this is that I judge my contentment and my ability to work with certain people by how well I can understand their culture and feel at ease in it. If I don't feel at ease I see this as something that needs to be overcome. I feel that I need to in some way love the culture I am in, in order to minister to the people. Now of course seeing positives in any culture I find myself in is a good thing, and no doubt helpful!

But what I have been realising, as I've struggled with this culture and as my heart has been torn between wanting to be at home and knowing that if I was at home I would want to be here (!!!), is that I am not about culture. We are not called to love a culture, but to love God, to love the gospel, and to love people. I don't want any of my life choices to be built on vague ideas like 'i like those kinds of people...I'll work with them'; 'I like that place...I'll work there'; 'I fit in well in that culture...I'll go there'. I want my choices to stem from deep convictions about who God is, who we are in light of who God is, and the unchanging truths of the Bible, of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may end up falling in love with the culture/country we work in along the way, but that is not to be what drives us.

When my eyes turn to earthly comforts, and I feel like I would be happier if only I was with people that understood me, or in a country where I could wear jumpers and coats and have a big thick duvet at night and have a hot bath, where I could understand what was going on in church and where I wouldn't offend people all the time accidentally on account of not knowing the cultural cues...

...that's when I know that my convictions are built on culture and comfort instead of on Christ.

So where should I send my thoughts when I am longing for home? Lingering on thoughts of earthly comforts certainly do not satisfy! Instead I should send my thoughts to God, the God of all comforts, to my Saviour, to the cross and resurrection of Jesus, where my eternal salvation was bought and secured. To my home in heaven which is where my only lasting possessions are, which anyway is my only REAL home.

My prayer is that God would use all these experiences to build deep conviction in me. Praise Him for already starting this process, I know He will finish it.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

- Edward Mote 1834

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." - Philippians 3:18-21


Yvonne said...

Interesting eye-opening reading,
I realise I too think about the future based on what might be comfortable or where I might fit in, as supposed to trusting in God and looking to Him.

As we take our faith more seriously and wholeheartedly desire to live our lives for Christ, the more God reveals to us the depth of our sinful nature and the more we realise our need for salvation, redeption and His transformation work in our lives.

doze said...

wow, Ali. i found that so helpful.
Thanks. Jesus first, above everything!!