Anyone who has traveled or lived cross-culturally (whether in their home country or abroad) should be able to share more about lessons learned than lessons taught. If I can't do that, something is wrong. This Sunday, I was able to reflect on what cross-cultural living has taught me about adoration.
As with most things, the journey to the obvious was long and twisty.
A synopsis of the beginning of the story is that I am terrible at adoration in prayer in worship. My mind wanders, I lose interest, and I even begin to feel it is pointless. The sinful train of thought goes something like, "God knows He's great, I know He's great, what are we talking about here?" Even as a young girl, armed with the acrostic ACTS, I got so stuck on the A and wanted to skip to Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Adoration seems so redundant, and so obvious.
There is quite clearly sin in this attitude. Also, though, there is the natural way my brain works - to tease the nuance out of something, to want to wrestle with the complicated, to exercise curiosity and wondering, to discover new things rather than dwell on the familiar.
So, in my personal prayer, adoration is rushed - the prayer equivalent of a head nod instead of a bear hug. In corporate prayer, while someone else is adoring, I'm daydreaming or (at my worst) judging.
You all know that my first foray into crossing culture in a significant way was marrying Ben. Guys, I had some ugly missteps in navigating this as a young adult - the epitome of a selfish, arrogant American, believing that my husband's culture was "behind," as was their theology. My parents-in-law can PRAY. They can and do pray continually, for everything and everyone. And, they worship. They spend solid minutes reciting to God what is great about him. They do it with tears and repetition, and do not seem to tire of restatement. They never believe that they've overstated Truth.
And, I'll be honest. That tends to drive me crazy. I'm an antsy, selfish toddler, wanting to go to the next step, and then to amen, and then to out-the-door.
A few months ago, I began reading a book with friends. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty. She explores the idea of adoration as an impetus to spiritual growth and depth. And she developed a pretty devotional to help. I tried. She warned it would feel awkward, and boy did it. It was the same old problem. My impatience with taking the time to tell God what isn't new to either of us.
On Sunday, in church, I listened to the African pastor pray. And I was struck with how he sounded just like Ben's dad - how they have in common the beautiful ability to sit in adoration. How it's not an Indian thing or an African thing, but it might just be a non-American thing. If I put aside my American values of independence and argument, might I find more freedom in prayer?
Maybe it has cultural roots, maybe it doesn't; either way, I'm hoping to incorporate something new into my faith: stating the obvious, and restating it enough that it doesn't seem obvious anymore.