Your mindset, on arriving in a foreign country for a two- or three-week vacation, is lighthearted, happy, expectant of adventures. Your brush with the culture will just skim the top, with a few awkward, tourist-type gaffes. If you attempt the language, it is guaranteed that you will have some intriguing interactions with the locals. Ordering food or drinks is a frustrating, but fun experience (which makes for great stories once home again). And don’t forget to ask for directions! The results are always unforgettable!
Arriving in a foreign country for a six-month stay, and living with a local family, is considerably more daunting. In comparison to the above scenario, this is more like a deep dive. In a heartbeat, you are aware of being the one foreigner in a fully settled culture where how things work is taken for granted. Beyond the culture, there is the relational dynamic of the family with whom you are living. The language barrier is now embarrassingly pronounced (no pun intended). Learning what to ask for and what to politely wait for, frequently reddens cheeks. Proper table manners can befuddle, too (note to the wise: do not depend on the teenager’s example!). In shops, prices rattled off at lightning speed are your invitation to childlike humility (or adult humiliation) when you have to break down and ask, through gestures, that they be written down so you can see them, as hearing them repeated three or four times (and louder each time) has proven unhelpful. You may choose to offer your money, especially your non-distinguishable change, to the clerk for the counting. One last observation: idioms are fiendishly false friends and are reliably non-translatable.
When the gift of Salvation does its work in us, transforming us from outside and pagan to inside and believer, it is very much like being moved permanently to a foreign land. Reading up on our new home rarely prepares us for the real thing (like taking classes in the foreign language and expecting to converse fluently upon arrival – you wish!). Jesus’ disciples were given many examples of what the Kingdom was like, but they, not unlike us, didn’t get it. They had to come meekly, asking Jesus to speak more plainly. To Jesus, he was speaking plainly, but the guys had filters that clouded his stories, rendering them a confusing jumble of words. Multiple promises were made: what they would be, what their relationship with God would become, what provision was made for them, where their place would be in the Kingdom, where their strength would be found, what the Holy Spirit would be like in them, etc.
I think it was only after Jesus returned to the Father that they, through lived experience, began to ‘taste and see that God is good,’ that Jesus’ promises were Yes! and Amen!, that a power infinitely beyond their own was now at work in them, that resilience unlike anything they’d ever known was keeping their heads up, building perseverance within them, that Yes, Jesus was building his church! And in the crazy-making early days of this church they were, astonishingly, living in supernatural peace – just like Jesus promised! And there was much, much more! We’ll talk about that tomorrow, 10 AM, 4 PM. PD