What made the difference? Well, in December 2012, a large missions conference took place: Urbana. Three years ago my husband and were serving on the intercessory prayer and prayer ministry teams. We talked for a long time about whether he would attend this year, and we decided in favor of our first Christmas in our home since we've been married. (Can you believe that? We've been in North Carolina to visit my brother, at the Urbana missions conference, to Nebraska two years in a row to visit my extended family, and finally no where but here.) Anyway, the conference streams many of the plenary sessions and seminars, so I grabbed some sewing and began to catch up one night. The men rented Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. A perfect excuse to have time to myself.
Exploring Cultural Assumptions by Sheryl Silzer helped explain why words have been so challenging lately. Her seminar focuses on how global missions are changing from being driven and led by North Americans, to North Americans becoming servant leaders, and Silzer invites us to know well our culture of origin and the culture we are serving. I learned one paradigm growing up, and parenting taps into those deep, learned patterns of talking and relating. However, since beginning to know Jesus 10 years ago, he's been teaching me other ways of relating - ways that my heart wants to follow. All the fragments of my life (marriage, children, time to use my gifting, basic upkeep, etc) create enough noise that I don't live fully rested or emotionally ready to deal with any and every curve ball in a day... and that teases out the old ways of speaking and relating that I very much dislike now.
Some days, I feel like my son only hears a litany of "No. Stop. Give it back." directed at his sister. For example, these fly out of my mouth. Silzer says there is what's called a "Culture-Based Judging System" at work when something happens differently than what I expect.
"I'll take care of your brother, you take care of you."
"That's just what we do. Please do it now."
"If you're not going to listen, I don't want your help."
But what would I rather say? Well, Silzer explains the research of Mary Douglas, who divides world cultures into roughly 2 basic dimensions, "How are we different from one another?" (strong or weak structure); "How are we alike?" (strong or weak community). These sort world cultures into four basic types: collective, hierarchical, individuating, institutionalizing.
I've been operating largely out of a weak structure/weak community dimension which values individual differences, personal preference, and logical, linear thinking with instructions on how to do something. Sound familiar? It may if you organize your closet clothes by color, organize your desk, or prefer to work independently on projects rather than with a team, or follow rules well. It may be your own way of thinking if your parents treated you and your siblings largely as unique individuals and wanted you to do things on your own.
|Image from http://vimeo.com/globalfamfound|
Genesis 1:26-27 says we are all made in God's image and Revelation 7:9 shows every culture before God's heavenly throne. Now, if God is the author of culture, then, all cultures reflect his person - there is something good and worthy in every culture even if sin has broken some aspects. Yet, cultural assumptions do not always paralel the Bible. So, I'm not disparaging one forth of the cultural picture; I am saying, I've trying to do things in my own cultural way and it isn't working well in my family. I need to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, love, long suffering) and if they aren't present in my family, I'm probably doing things a wrong way. Desperately needing help learning new gut reactions. Such as,
"We take care of each other in this family. How is he feeling when you do that? How can you get along?"
"How would you do it? Show me how you do it."
"How can we do this to also take care of (person)?"
"I need help. Let's both listen. How can we do it together?"
"You need to listen to (family friend)."
Now what? Well, the Christ-follower taps into the Holy Spirit living in us. The Christ-follower knows that I lack the power to change apart from God. The Christ-follower soaks in Scripture and stays in constant contact through prayer... and he's reworking things in me and my family. Slowly, but faithfully. :-)
How about you? Have you ever run into entrenched ways of speaking in your marriage, parenting, or other relationships? What made a difference?