What’s God Got to do with it?
Thus far, this entire booklet has taken more of a psychological/cultural approach to transitions. But as Christians, we should not ignore God’s role in any aspect of life.
Here are a few important points to note:
A cultural transition requires much humility and earnest attempts to learn new things. In fact, in many ways, you become like a child. This can be a profound spiritual lesson. James 4:1-10 talks about this very issue. Many of our conflicts come from selfish desires within us (vs. 1-3), and our only remedy is to repent and submit to God’s will with humility. During a cultural transition, these issues are magnified because cultural and linguistic skills and competencies are initially non-existent. This forces us to shed our pride and learn with humility, seeking to please God and not men. As verse 10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Word to the Wise: Cultural transitions are stressful. Yeah, we’ve established that. But if you think of this in terms of sinful weaknesses, you need to be on your guard. When we humans are under stress and are feeling lost, is it easy to seek comfort in different types of worldly pleasures. If you have struggled with latent anger, overeating, alcohol, video games, or other controlling behaviors before, you will be even more susceptible to attacks now. It’s easier to make these things an idol when you are feeling weak and needy. In times of trouble, we seem to replace our need for the Creator with created things. Not only that, but there is a strong temptation to wallow in self-pity.
Transitioning culturally requires a type of death to self that normal life often does not. When you are in another culture, you must relinquish your grip on cultural preferences and learn to embrace those of your host culture. This is a great real life illustration of what Christ asks us to do on a daily basis with our sinful selves. The act of “dying to self” is rarely easy no matter whether you are speaking in a spiritual or a cultural sense. In fact, cultural transitions can be some of the most confusing and difficult parts of life. But the Bible has much to say to Christians about suffering. Romans 8:17-39 is a beautiful passage about this very subject. Verse 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.” Cultural transitions give you a great opportunity to experience the sanctifying work of God as you become more like Him. If you allow Him to, Christ will use cultural transitions for good in your life. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As Hebrews 11 notes, in transitions, we are to imitate men like Moses and Abraham and go by faith, believing that God means to give us “a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Some night, when you feel completely disoriented and are awash with homesickness, cling to the promises of God.
Personal Story—Val Yates: My transition back to the United States for college was the most difficult period of my life to date. I was disoriented, I was homesick, I was angry, I was a million different emotions all rolled up into a gigantic fortress that even the U.S. Marines wouldn’t have been able to penetrate. I know that my cultural transition was also very spiritual. I was angry with God for all the pain and neglect I felt. I tried to fill the empty, lonely space inside me with food. It was something I could control, and it felt good. Of course, then I started packing on the pounds, which continued my cycle of self-pity and self-loathing. At the end of this dark time, though, I walked away with some new insights about God and myself. I learned to appreciate the fact that God is omnipresent and omniscient. He knows all of me. He has been everywhere I’ve been. I came into a greater realization of my own pride and sinfulness.
a confusion of cultures.
I think this is good
Because I can
understand the traveler, sojourner, foreigner,
I think this is also bad
because I cannot
by the person who has sown and grown in one place.
They know not
the real meaning of homesickness
that hits me
now and then.
Sometimes I despair of
a United Nations.
Who can recognize either in me
-“Uniquely Me” by Alex Graham Jones15
Geneva graduates have an 80% acceptance rate when applying for entrance to medical school–well above the national average.