How can a person be born again? Nicodemus once famously asked.
Try moving to an entirely new context and, as a full-grown adult, learn a new language and new customs. Enter as a baby. A college-educated, previously independent… baby.
How you bathe and use the toilet: different. Food: different. Weather: different. How and what is communicated: different. Worship: different. Who is worshipped: different. Transportation: different. Plants: different. How time is used: different. Holidays & celebrations: different. Me: different??
Most of myself was stripped away during my transition to Thailand. I was still me, but I was also not me. In developing a bi-cultural identity, ponderous questions appeared:
1. What is the good news of Jesus?
2. What do I understand of Jesus outside my cultural context?
3. How do I communicate? How do I understand how others express themselves? How do I express myself? Is what I am intending to communicate being communicated? Is what this other person is communicating what they intend? Do I understand their intent?
4. Biblical value or American value or Thai value? Where do they intersect?
Displacement has many, many blessings, but also high costs. The rebirthing process was destructive down to the foundation. You’re carrying a lot of cultural values that don’t translate here. What it means to be a woman, what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be single without children, what it means to be late-20s, what it means to be a non-profit employee, what it means to be a person living in community, what it means to be a foreigner – all those identities have different meanings, values, and expressions here.
My prayer times became inquisitive. Who are You, God? Who are You, here? Who am I, here? Why is Thai food so good? Did you divinely inspire Thais in their flavor combinations?
In quiet, God revealed His vastness – beyond culture, beyond time – His steadiness, His gloriousness, His largeness. It was unending, unyielding, unwavering. O Lord God Almighty, who is like You? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you… the heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it [Thais and Americans alike].”
And there was deep comfort and safety in my smallness, engulfed by all that He is, and all about Him that was unknown. Thunderstorms at two AM would easily wake me, and I would stare out the window at the storm, watching lightning in the clouds for hours. Who is like You, Mighty God? Who controls the wind, the clouds, the energy coursing through the sky, the beams of light, the water pounding the tin roof? Who is like You?
Everything was different, I was different, and He remained the same.