Nearly 6 months ago now I wrote a blog entry called Culture and Conviction. You can read it here. As my thoughts have developed slightly since that time I decided to write a culture and conviction part 2 entry, only with a different name. This is it. Actually, I haven’t learned anything new since then, only the same thing more profoundly.
The battle is hotter than ever. Perhaps you would expect me to say that an extra 6 months would have made things easier, perhaps I can speak a bit more Thai, communicate more easily and understand what’s going on around me a lot more. I actually think the opposite is true. The more I learn about this culture, the less I understand, the more uncomfortable I feel, and the more I want out. I am sure this is normal, it must get worse before it gets better, but I am convinced that the idea of ‘just be patient, it will pass’ is a cop out solution to this problem, as is the, ‘just learn to like Thai culture’ approach. So if I don’t fight these battles properly and honestly now, I will have exactly the same problems when I go back to the UK, and for the rest of my life. I must fight to value Christ more than culture. I must fight to be content in Him now, or I will never be content, in any culture.
I suppose if my theology was a bit different I could just say ‘clearly Thailand is not for me, I will go home now and do something that fits my personality more’. But it doesn’t work like that. I will go home eventually of course, and maybe I will end up doing something that fits with me better for a while, and maybe I will come back to Thailand one day, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know. All I know is that right now I am here, in Thailand. And so I am called to fight the battle to be content in Jesus in Thailand this day.
Since I wrote previously, some things have changed. I rarely miss cold weather and duvets for one thing, and the battle is less about wanting to go home. On a purely functional level I feel sufficiently enough like Thailand is home now that I am not missing things from the UK all that much. What I miss is relationships. Being able to talk to people. Being able to know how to move a conversation from the superficial to the deep. Being able to know how to read people and situations. Being able to say what I want to say and what I need to say in order to not seem disinterested, odd, impolite. Being able to make friends easily. Being able to study the Bible in depth with people. Being able… just being able. In a way it feels a bit like what it must feel to have a disability. I feel weak and lame, I feel blind and deaf and dumb. A verbal cripple. But there is great joy in that. I think of all those in the gospels who were outcasts in this way – they knew they needed one thing. Jesus. And they went to Him unashamed.
The other thing that has changed is that the stakes are higher. Much more is expected of me. Deeper levels of interaction with people and culture are required, and the deeper the interaction, the deeper the wounds I have received as parts of my sinful self have come up against certain parts of Thai culture. And as I’ve grappled with these things before God I have realised that bitterness in this is lethal. Bitterness, [also known as ‘I’ve-Had-a-Rough-Deal-and-Everything-That-Happens-To-Me-is-Rubbish-Syndrome’], must be killed or it will kill us. As I take these things to Jesus, I am finding that His comfort is more than sufficient to take away the sting of bitterness, while not necessarily removing the hurt.
And so I choose to be content in Christ, and I will not be disappointed. Content with His comfort. Content that He understands me. Content that my identity is in Him. Content that He uses even the painful things that happen so that I’m better off than if they had never happened (Romans 8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”).
Finally, be blessed by watching this interview with my newest friend, Philippa Wilson, who is a Brit working with students in France. Especially watch out for the words quoted under the video – almost exactly what I have also been thinking and learning recently, but put much better than I could express it!