Friday, October 24, 2014

culture shock

It's this nebulous thing that we've all heard of, but many never experience.

It's... the shock... of... being... in a new culture... right?

Well, that's only partly true.  It can happen to those moving to new lands or those moving to other parts of their own country.  The shock comes from the confusion, the unfamiliar, the change in what is normal.

And it hit me a couple months ago.

Not everyone experiences culture shock in the same way.  It can manifest itself in a whole host of symptoms: depression, anger, homesickness, allergies, sicknesses, fear, loneliness, missing the old and hating the new, or even hating the old and loving the new.  Any of these symptoms, and many more, can come crashing down on a person as the shock of living in a new place begins to gnaw on the person's spirit.

And they did.

Even though I've been through culture shock in the past, it took me a little while to figure out what was going on.  Something just wasn't right.  Frustration and loneliness ruled as I listened to conversations I could only partly understand.  Fear would come upon me at even the thought of having to be with those I couldn't fully communicate with.  New allergies hit me as summer rolled into fall, and my normally resilient self came down with a couple of bugs.  It seemed like tears were always threatening to come.  One evening I buried my head on my husband's shoulder and begged him not to leave me alone with the Gypsy kids ever, ever again.  (He had only been gone 5 minutes that afternoon.)  And I was obsessing about wanting to plant some flowers - I needed something to control.

But finally it dawned on me that life really wasn't so bad; I was only in the middle of culture shock.  God was still the same God, and He would give me grace to get through it.  It wouldn't be too long until I would be back to myself again.  The realization didn't overcome the shock, but it did make it much easier to deal with.

All in all, it only lasted maybe 6 weeks or so.  I still don't understand everything that goes on around me, but I am understanding more and more.  I still have a fear of speaking when other Americans are present (something I am working on overcoming), but in general the thought of speaking doesn't bother me, and I enjoy being with our Romanian and Gypsy friends.  I never did cry, but still, the tears don't threaten nearly as often now.  And I do enjoy being with the Gypsy kids... at least, most of the time.  In fact, last week, in a fit of boldness (or stupidity), I told my husband that I would teach the kids' class this past Tuesday night.  In Romanian.  :-O  He had to preach, and there was no one else to teach the kids.  We could have had them in with the adults, but I really felt like the Lord wanted me to step out by faith and trust Him to carry me through the evening.  Rebeca helped me, and it went well, thank the Lord.  If it hadn't, I just might have gone back into shock and told my husband never to let me volunteer to teach again!  But even if I had, God would still be good and would have given me the grace I needed to help me through the difficulties.

And the flowers?  Well, I'm not obsessing over them any more.  I realized that my obsession was in fact my flesh's hidden way of trying to take control of my life away from the One who had it all along.  I didn't need to plant flowers; I needed to rest in the Lord's control.  After that realization, every time I thought about needing to have some flowers to care for, God would remind me that He had everything in control - I just needed to trust Him.

And actually, He did give me some flowers anyway.  I love them and am looking forward to hopefully planting some others next year.  He is so very good to me.

there are a few random yellow petals on this one

We meant to get the same color.  They looked like they were the same color before the flowers opened, and the man we bought them from purposely gave us these two because they were the same color.  Oh well.  We originally wanted red, but I like them both so much now that I can't decide which I would have chosen.

Which do you like better?  The red or the purple?


  1. Thank you for sharing that struggle. I think we oftentimes lose all sight of Him as we are going through struggles, and become almost obsessed with wondering "what is this??" "what is going on to me??" "how can I (emphasis on the I) fix it?" instead of giving ourselves grace to adjust to new things, grace to not have it all together, grace to be okay not knowing why and instead trusting that He is in control of it all and cares.

    1. Thanks for that encouragement, Heather! These struggles definitely aren't limited to culture shock. We have to trust the Lord in so many other situations, as well, and give all of our cares - big and little - to Him.


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