Friday, November 10, 2017

Culture Squish

Yes, it’s been over a year since I’ve written. Lots of good reasons for that. But today’s a family favorite - the Parade of Nations at KICS.
What beauty is found in watching hundreds of people, mostly children, proudly showing off the traditions of their homes. At a school like KICS, the display is particularly dazzling. I’m writing this while my fifth graders take a test, and I see one Korean hanbok, six Rwandan  mishinana on both boys and girls, one Malawian dress, lots of football jerseys that represent different countries, and my friend Muthoni who helps me every day is wearing a beautiful Kenyan dress. My Canadians are sporting maple leaf tattoos and my Ghanaian will get dressed later.
Pictures will come later, but the beauty isn’t in the fabric or the texture or the color. The beauty of today is the Image of God on display as He intended it. God chose from the beginning that we should not make images of him, because He gave us His image in billions of different ways when he gave us each other.
Yes, the best way I can know God is through his Holy Word and indwelling Holy Spirit. But, I’m missing a chance to know Him if I look past, over, or down on any of the images that He  made of Himself.
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past eighteen years of my life, it’s that this process of knowing God better through loving those different from me produces beautiful results, but is uncomfortable.
We’ve all heard the term culture shock, and that’s still something I experience yearly in my visits to the States and try to choose yogurt at the grocery store.
But today, as I was watching my students sing and dance to their favorite band Run51 performing God’s Great Dance Floor, I realized that the shock is temporary; it’s the squish that stays with you forever.
As people, I believe we only have natural space for one culture, or point of view. And so, I explained to my fifth graders, when I met dr. Thomas, I had to make room for his culture by squishing mine own aside. As you can imagine, this wasn’t easy for either of us, but I wasn’t the only one squishing. My in-laws also had to squish to make room for me and my ideas and ways of looking at things. My squishing naturally asked my family to squish too. Ben didn’t have to squish too much, but he did have to witness all his loved ones squishing and sometimes (me) whining about it.
But it’s in the squish that Christ is most revealed, because He not only asks it if us, but modeled it for us. Actually, that’s not true. What he modeled was “emptying himself,” which is far more than just making space for marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, or learning a few words in a new language.
And so I can’t wait to to go to the parade this afternoon and I’ll certainly shed some tears when the flags of Rwanda and India come down. Because, not only have I had the joy of squishing for them, they’ve squished so much more for me.