Culture and Spirituality
Posted by justicetabernacle on June 15, 2011
ministry in a cross-cultural context is a topic that i thought a lot about in the past year- i even took a course on it- and part of me thought it was silly for a few reasons. first of all, i didn’t really see germany as that ‘foreign’ of a place, given that i had lived here for almost 5 years in my 20’s. on top of that, in my worldview of thinking that we are all part of a ‘global citizenry,’ i tended to always downplay our differences and focus on the fact that we are all human and have very similar tendencies and longings; and that in the end, we are all created in the image of God.
while i still hold true to most of those things, especially the latter part, i have indeed encountered some moments where i felt the distance of nations and language. this was made especially clear to me yesterday, as i was talking to a mentor. we were discussing a recent struggle i had encountered in trying to explain a deep theological conviction of mine to a group of germans. i was telling him how frustrated i felt about not being able to aptly communicate my idea to them- now you have to understand that i am usually intensely grateful to the Lord that i am able to speak german so fluently, and often talk about how important language is- and how it’s important to be able to communicate at a deeper level… so as you can imagine it was even more frustrating to me that i was not able to do it.
and the response i got from this mentor of mine was insightful. he said: ‘this is great- you are finally beginning to inculturate your spirituality.’ hmm. i had not really thought about this before. you see, because of my past experience living in germany, i had very few problems getting situated in language, cultural norms, etc… but one thing that i never experienced before in all my years living here, was doing full time ministry. this time around, is the first time that i have had to truly incorporate my spirituality and theology. and this experience i recently had, was just that- it was a matter of integrating my theological convictions and my understanding of God into the cultural context in which i am living.
so i am grateful for the objective view on a situation that i thought was just frustrating. it is why it is so important to have people in our lives that can look in on things to see the true value and help us realign our perspective. so now, something that seemed just annoying, actually was an important step in an ongoing process of inculturation.