The questions Just. Never. Stop.
From my home culture: You have a woman who cooks and cleans for you? Lucky! So, what do you do all day? Any converts yet? Why don’t you take more pictures over there? Have you learned the language yet? Why are you still over there? Don’t you know people need help here too? How’s your trip going? When are you coming home?
From my host culture: Why don’t you have children? Your husband might leave you! You don’t know how to cook ugali? Your husband won’t have strength! Do you know how to make a fire? Do you know there’s white dirt in your hair? Why don’t you wash your hair with soap and hot water? Why do you whites only wear shirts with one color? So boring!
Shame started to creep in when I didn’t have the answers, or when I feared that the answers that I did have would be judged. I just could not measure up to what my home culture expects of the perfect cross-cultural worker, and I was nowhere near what my host culture thinks a woman should be to her husband.
In my training, they taught us that when you leave “A” culture to live in “B” culture, overtime you develop your own “C” culture. You will never truly fit in again with either “A” or “B” culture. At orientation, I marveled at how God would make something new out of me. Then after a while on the field, I wondered if I could bear to live the rest of my life as an outsider.
I confessed my hidden fears to my husband. Surely as another “C” culture person, he would understand. And he tried, yes, he surely tried. He held me, he listened, he prayed with and for me. I knew I was so blessed to have this wonderful partner, but sometimes I still felt alone with struggles unique to my gender and in places in my heart reserved for my Savior.
Who do you say that I am, Lord?
Father, I have all these unanswered questions, these doubts and fears. Where are you?
At first when my questions were met with silence, I thought that maybe staying busy was the answer. If I was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about the questions, then they wouldn’t affect me. Right? And perhaps along the way, I would do something good and be affirmed for who I am rather than defined by who I am not.
That flurry of action fueled by perfectionism burned out after a few weeks. I reached the point of exhaustion where I felt like one more question would tip me over the edge. My husband’s simplest requests were met with stony silence. I had finally reached the end of myself.
Be still and know that I am God.
Yeah wouldn’t that be nice to have some stillness? Maybe someday.
Be still and know that I am God.
The first time I tried being still, I set a timer for five minutes and asked God to speak to me. In the quiet, he reminded me that I am not alone. I ended the session in tears. So the next day, again, I sat in silence for five minutes. God called me his beloved. And day by day, I began to carve out time to sit and listen. Over time the voice of reassurance became louder than the questions swirling around me.
For the past few months, I’ve continued this practice of sitting in silence before God at the start of each day. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking those moments of stillness. But God assures me that I have chosen the better thing (Luke 10:42). And other days, it seems like everyone waits until the very moment that I sit down to attack me with problems. In fact, this very morning, just as I began to enter into silence, my husband yelled that the dog was bleeding!
Yet again and again I return to listen to God in the silence. Before God I no longer feel like I have anything to hide. He doesn’t care if I measure up as a perfect east African housewife and he doesn’t have a cross-cultural worker grading sheet. He understands my limitations and accepts me as His beloved child. In his gaze I am fully known and completely loved. With Hagar, I can praise him as the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13).
The questions still come as friends from both “A” and “B” cultures just don’t quite get my “C” culture quirks. Yet I am no longer so fearful of being misunderstood or worried to be found wanting. The God of the Universe meets me each day in the silence. That is good enough for me!
Does being a “C” culture person ever make you want to run and hide? Have you found ways to rest in the Lord‘s presence to give you strength to face another day of feeling misunderstood?