There are a number of obvious benefits and challenges to working/serving overseas — many of which are both a benefit and a challenge, like exposure to an interesting and very different culture, seeing new and unusual things, etc.
But what has for us tipped the scale in favor of this grand adventure are the little things. A year and a half in, we’re still regularly surprised by fragments of daily life that lift (or shove) us into a different place.
So over the next few days, I wanted to celebrate some of those revelations of hidden grace in our life over here. I’m not working from a list — there are a couple that leap out, but a few more may surface along the way — but probably the most unexpected blessing has been to live life as a minority.
Obviously this isn’t something that is new to all transplants in foreign lands, but as a Caucasian American male, it has been a thought-provoking, sometimes mumble-and-grumble-inducing change of pace. I lived overseas in Spain and Japan when I was growing up, but like most children, I tended to accept my place at the low end of the power spectrum and so there was really nothing new to see there. But with a few decades of adulthood under my belt, it has been fascinating to experience being stripped of much of the power and control over life that I had come to assume. Growing familiarity does restore a fair amount of that sense of dominion – returning from a weekend trip out of the country, we both marveled at how much more “home” Budapest felt to us than on our first ride in from the airport almost two years ago — but definitely not all of it. It’s too hard to keep up with the barrage of “new” and “different” and “odd” and “I don’t get it” to also carry the baggage that control requires.
And that’s a good thing. We’ve had multiple radical changes in our lives over the past five years; some self-inflicted, others the routine passages of time and circumstances. Each one has come equipped with a large mirror accompanied by a terse instruction manual: HOLD UP TO YOUR LIFE. LEARN. CHANGE. GROW. REPENT IF NECESSARY.
So in losing the insipid sense of entitlement that metastasized and spread for more than 30 years, I am blessed to find that different can be clever and useful — even (gasp!) better. That there are some pretty powerful lessons still to be learned from other people, from their institutions and their stories.
That while there are absolutes and answers, it turns out that God didn’t hand over the complete set to any one of us.