There is a great difference between a shot term trip and long term living. They are not the same. There is a great difference from coming home from a short term trip and coming home from something permanent. They are not the same. Both offer the opportunity to reflect. Both can have a life changing opportunity. Both can stir up a passion and fire and give redirection to your life. But the body undergoes two different experiences. I have lived them both. The mountain top reality as well as the deep rooted change.
Being absorbed into a culture instead of just seeing it. Having to deal side by side with the challenges that come from living within a culture. Learning to be flexible because there is no other option. Meeting people, having real relationships and true friends. Incorporating a different rhythm to your day as well as different norms. Walking beside broken people to bring them to Jesus. Learning a culture so that you can understand the heart. Conforming. Sacrificing. Living with less. Rewiring your brain for another language.
So much has changed that it is difficult to even assimilate to your own country. When home to visit, the body never really has to flip over, but under the idea that this could be permeant, everything changes.
People see me and expect me to be the same person as when I left. And yet, I can guarantee that I am not. I am not the same. My world view has changed, my needs have changed, my spiritual life has changed, my ability to connect has changed. My priorities. My passions. My energy. I cannot engage in every day conversations because I do not know what every day is. People put labels on you, think you will have the same job. And live in the same community. People say, “You’re just the same. It’s as if you never left.” Yet inside you’re screaming because you realize they cannot see the change. They cannot understand that Jesus has changed me to adapt and build something in me that I must use for my future.
There is no way that anyone who lives cross culturally will ever be the same. Because there is nothing that is the same. Assimilation is difficult. And space is a necessity.
Because our culture has lived a life of overabundance, instant decisions and infinite choices, we do not see what it is like to be overwhelmed by these things. There is a fight within me to resist the conformity. A fight to resist falling into a pattern because it is expected or culture. A fight to resist same.
Yet two things have not changed – my passion for people and my passion for them to reach their dreams and experience freedom through Jesus Christ. If anyone recognizes these passions as the same, it is true. They have been fueled even more.
Yet even though these two remain, they are played out differently. They are not the same. They stem from a deeper vein. I am not the same. Nor do I want to be the same. I have died to so many things that were important to me because it was necessary. And I have to choose whether I will bring these things back into my life or keep them still. I have a fight within me for the oppressed populations. I have a language within me that yearns to sing. And I have a mixed culture within me that is not at peace here nor there.
Let us not expect the same and embrace the difference.