Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Water and Fish

Today was another intense day.  We started tackling some pretty tough, yet foundational stuff.  Things like how relationships within a family can significantly impact outward ministry.  We discussed it around our tables, and as my table was six single women, we talked about the importance of setting boundaries with any married men with whom we will be serving. We also talked about our role in helping to affirm and honor the marriages of our team members.    

It was interesting to hear other perspectives from the group at large, particularly the tension between pouring one’s all into the needs of the ministry but also safeguarding the family.  If a missionary's family is crumbling, what does that say to those they are trying to show Jesus?  Where is that balance?  Going even deeper, is it something to balance, or is one the definite priority?   

We also started to dive into cultural issues.  That’s going to be a major area of focus, and I’m glad.  Having to wrestle with understanding that I come at things from a cultural bias which informs the way I approach the world is super important.  

During Perspectives last fall, one of the instructors shared a Chinese proverb which says, “If you want to know what water is, don’t ask a fish.”  I love that!  Our culture surrounds us, defines us, in ways we typically don’t recognize.  

The reality is, those social norms – and taboos help keep society gelled and functioning.  But, we don’t always understand the reason why something seems ‘wrong’ to us.  Is extending one’s right hand the ‘right’ way to shake hands?  Is it immoral to extend your left?  No, obviously not, but it still causes confusion and discomfort to have someone thrust the ‘wrong’ hand out when they meet you.  And, there’s no real reason, besides the fact that it’s just not ‘right’.  Our ‘water’ says so, but as fish swimming around in it, we cannot describe why.

Once again, I am having a difficult time processing it all!  As weird as this may sound, I love that they are not just giving us all the answers.  I know this is a stretch for many of us.  At more than one point in the day, someone expressed some frustration at the fact that there aren’t simple answers to how to move from the comfort or our ‘home’ culture to an uncomfortable new culture.  The fact is, it’s not simple.  I believe just by realizing this, we are taking steps to address it.
Tomorrow we will have individual coaching sessions with one of the staff.  I am looking forward to that as a time to debrief these first few days.  As I close for the night, I need to say Thank You for your prayers and interest.  I truly feel that I am not here all by myself, but have a group of encouragers in all of you, cheering me on.  You are blessing me, and I thank you!

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