I have been back in my second home for a little over a week now. Tonight, as I was driving in a taxi, I felt deeply moved to love for my host culture. I felt alive and happy to be back, in addition to passionate for the work at hand. I can't wait to get back out there and engage. My heart is burdened with supplication to the Father.
In the midst of the taxi ride, though, I reflected on last year and its hardships. Tonight I was worlds away from the immense frustrations of last year, but I know how easy it would be for that sense of frustrated apathy to return. I reflected on what pushed me to persevere last year and my mind returned to a passage that kept me inspired last year to stay engaged with this culture.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Last year, I was reading this passage and it dawned on me that these words of wisdom can, and should, be applied to much more in this life than just individuals. How many times have I thought of this in relationship to a friend, family member, or stranger? Plenty. But how many times have I tried to apply this to my new culture?
When, in the midst of a bad day of pollution, traffic, strange food, etc. have I stopped and said, I will LOVE this culture by being (fill in the blank with any of the above attributes of love?) Last year, I was constantly reminded of "love is not easily provoked" and tried to push myself let go of anger in frustrating situations. This year, I want to go beyond that one attribute. I hope to reflect on each of the attributes of love in connection to my new culture.
The first is patience. If I am going to love East Asia, then I must learn patience with it. And there is so much to be patient with. My poor language skills immediately come to mind. So does the difference in organizational abilities and expectations. Of utmost importance will be patience with my teachers. And I hate hate hate standing in line, which is a daily trial over here.
Oh boy. This is going to be hard. But I don't want to bear the burden of this culture - I want to thrive on it. And to thrive on anything you must love it. And the above passage describes love as being patient. Loving something is a big task. Loving a culture seemingly opposite of my own seems almost impossible. But the Master who created both me and this crazy country also has given me His Spirit which happens to be patient to the utmost with His creation.
So maybe with increased patience, I really can keep on loving this place for the rest of the year.