My husband and I found ourselves fighting a lot more. About nothing really. About everything actually.
So we call a time out and phone (or Skype) a friend. Thankfully we have people who we trust who we can call when we need help. And so after I blabber on for about 15 minutes about not having hot water for months and sheets hanging on my windows, they look at each other and say two words. Culture shock. What? Culture shock?! That’s for newbies. You know when your first birthday overseas is the big 3-0 and you cry because the cake your husband made is lopsided and nothing is “special”. When you freak out because your helper keeps picking up your baby…to… get this…to hold her. THAT is culture shock. This isn’t culture shock. This must be something else.
And then I start to think back. I actually watched four seasons of “One Tree Hill”, a sub-par, teenage drama from 10 years ago, in like 2 weeks. Surely, that should have been a sign of how far I had fallen. Language school flash back, anyone? All seasons of “24” in a day, record speed. I remember lying in bed at night thinking about conspiracies and looking at ordinary lamps and knowing that if need be Jack could torture me with it. I should have seen the signs.
We moved a couple of months ago to a new city. Even though we are in the same country, we have moved to a completely different culture. Again, I find myself sitting with a group of ladies who are chatting and I understand maybe one out of 100 words. Because even though they speak the language I know, they prefer to speak their heart language. I have started to have those same dreadful feelings of hopelessness. Not being able to understand and seeing no way that I ever will. I don’t even know my 2nd language well and now I am supposed to work on a 3rd? Where can I fit that in between homeschooling five kids, my excessive t.v. watching and going to the market to pick out the chicken I want slaughtered for dinner?
But now, at least I know. Now I know I am not crazy and I know that my husband and I are not on the brink of a divorce. This will pass. I will adjust. I will one day not get lost on my way to the store and one day I will understand (mostly) what my neighbor is trying to say. Until then, though, what? More self-pity? No. More Netflix? Maybe. More patience with myself? Yes. And more Jesus? Absolutely. Lots and lots of Jesus.
I feel myself lately being lifted out of that dark haze we call culture shock. I know it is completely linked to my regular times in the Word. I have started to get up again before the house rises and reading and journaling and praying and planning my day. “…For out of an abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). My heart has been full of arrogance, bitterness, confusion and denial that so often come with learning a new culture and learning a new language, but more Jesus is the answer. And grace. I need a lot of grace.
Culture, and life for that matter, sometimes gets on us and we react in negative ways and other times we can just laugh at cultural differences. And then every now and then, we have moments of clarity and understanding. But one thing I am learning: Culture never stops being shocking. I’d fooled myself into thinking that part of living overseas was over and I wouldn’t have to deal with it again. I was very wrong. It doesn’t end. But I must be thankful for it because it drives us to the Father. And anything that makes me aware of my need for Him is good. Maybe that is what it is all about.