Monday, November 26, 2012

Taking the Plunge

Have you ever jumped off a high dive or a cliff?  As you stand on the edge you are excited and a bit afraid.  Then you jump.  In a split second you go from excitement to fear and back to excitement again.  Then you hit the water and feel a sting.  Depending on how you land, that sting can be with you for a second or several days.  A split second later the sting is overshadowed by the shock of the cold water.  You quickly get over the shock and acclimate to the temperature around you.  You may even swim under water for a few seconds before your lungs remind you that you need to come up for air.

Tonight I was thinking about diving.  I did this a lot as a kid having grown up in a land with over 10,000 lakes.  It is, in many ways, a very fast picture of what moving to another country is like.  At first you are excited and a little scared as you begin your time abroad.  Then one day a sting followed by a shock hits you.  Depending on how you hit this point, the sting may be with you for a short time or a long time.  After the shock, things normalize until the day comes that you realize it has been a while since you have come up for air.  Once you come up for air, you can swim around in your new culture for a long time and feel right at home.  You may find yourself gasping for breath every so often, and you will never totally fit in (divers never become fish), but you will (probably) get to feel right at home.

Of course some people can't swim.  And they should not dive.  In the same way some people can't fit in in a second culture and they should not try to be what they are not.  God did not make them for cross-cultural work, so they should be satisfied to take vacations abroad but not live there.  There is nothing wrong with this.  We all have different skills and gifts.

I took the dive into Bulgaria almost two years ago.  I can safely say that I'm swimming as well in Bulgarian culture as I would in a lake back in Minnesota.  I really like it here, and I have no desire to get out of the water just yet.

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