How Positively Un-American
As we embark on this journey that changes everything, our family is already headed down the path of learning new things about Croatian culture, but the most surprising thing we have learned, lately, are new things about our own American culture. The things we all know (and laugh) about American culture, are still true, but what we've learned recently is just slightly under the surface. What do I mean? Well, there are three main areas that we've had to navigate because our journey, our decisions, our choices that don't compute in our American culture. In fact, they seem positively un-American.
The first line of questioning is something like this: What's the plan? Where will you live? What is your job? How will you know you've been successful? I know these questions well because I've lived them out in corporate America for many years. To have the answers to short and medium term planning questions is to pass a test of "American wisdom." Thinking things through and having a solid plan is not exclusively an American value, but its clearly a cultural value in America. It proves that someone is doing something that "makes sense." Here's the problem. When this cultural point intersects with our faith and the Scriptures we see very quickly that God moved through many characters in the Bible who didn't have "American wisdom" or "a great plan" and the strength or quality of a leader was rarely defined by his/her great plans. This isn't to say we don't have a plan, but on a journey of this magnitude, the clarity of the plan will never meet the American standard and the beauty of that is we must lean on our faith to fill in the gaps. While, I'd really love to have a great corporate-style American plan for the next 5 years of our lives, its just not possible at the present time and we've come to embrace it. How positively Un-American :-D
The second line of questioning goes something like this: What about this kids? How will they be schooled? What is their college plan? What if they don't grow up feeling American? These questions are also fun because even more than the first set of questions, we actually know less about this area than anything else on our journey. I completely understand these questions, especially from parents, because the responsibility and future of our children can often be on our minds, but I've learned something special and important about my kids over the last few months: They are much more strong and more brave and more faithful than we give them credit. In the last few months, I've seen our kids embrace the unknown on days where I'm at my whits end. I've heard them talk about what they think their future will look like and what they might want from a new school, new friends and a new culture. It doesn't change how hard things are and will be, but the lesson for me in this phase of the journey is that sometimes I need to get out of the kids way and let them be kids. Let them dream, let them think big, let them navigate the difficulties of the journey instead of having a wonderful prescription for their education and early lives. Most importantly, I need to let them grow in their own faith during these times of uncertainty, so instead of relying on me for security, they rely on God. How positively Un-American :-D
The last line of questioning goes something like this: How long is this journey? When will you be back? My answers to this line of questioning yields the most blank looks and also the most smiles. The answer I usually give is: "Forever, or until God calls us somewhere else" Now that sounds good and it reflects my heart, but the truth is, along with every other line of questioning, we don't really know the length of this journey. Here's what we do know about this journey: If you want to become part of a new culture, if you want to truly know a place and adopt a place as home you need to live like you are staying forever. From language, to friendships, to schooling, to housing, all of the major decisions are made differently if they aren't seen through the lens of forever. So while I understand that its shocking to say words like forever, its important that we have a mindset that reflects our desire to be part of Croatian culture, to live like the Croatian people and to truly seek a new home that was not our birthplace. How positively Un-American :-D
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the things we are learning about American culture. Do they ring true? Are we crazy? Do we have it all wrong?