Saturday, November 24, 2007

Awkward Silence

We're always looking for opportunities to interact with people here. I think one of the neatest things is how God continues to bring us to people who are willing to interact with us on a deeper level despite the fact that we are foreigners.

One weekend not long ago, we were invited by a friend to visit them in their family's "country home," where they like to spend most of their summers. They have a child the same age as ours, and they love to play together. Of course, we recognized this invitation as a great opportunity to spend time with nationals. We consider it an act of God whenever someone actually wants to be around us. This was an even bigger deal, as we were invited into their home, something people here just don't normally do. Our entire relationship started when my wife, desperate to find a friend, and friend, walked up to this woman siting on a bench and just started talking to her. It was a great opportunity.

I didn't want to go.

I feel bad that I didn't want to go. Really. How terrible of me to not even be the least bit excited about building a relationship with these nice people. But I felt fake. I have nothing in common with these folks. The husband is twice my age. It felt so forced, so fake.

We drove the hour-long half hour's drive in silent anticipation of that awkward feeling we've felt so many times before. In my head, I was scripting the dialogue that would inevitably take place. How do you like the weather here? How is work? Did you hear about the new movie theater they're building? I wanted to add, "Why did you invite us?" or "What's the point of all this?" I knew I wasn't really going to ask those questions, though, because I probably knew better than they did what prompted them to invite a family of foreigners to spend the day with them.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Friendly Fire

The longer I'm on the field, the more out-of-touch I become with my home culture. I suppose this is natural, but it can make communication with people back home difficult, to say the least. Take my blog, for example. The misunderstanding seems to get worse the harder I try to clarify my thoughts and opinions. This is especially apparent with the arrival of partners from the States. The other day I had a conversation with a new arrival that was, um, disjointed to say the least. He asked about my favorite Christian music. I don't have any. He asked about several church planting conferences he had been to. I hadn't even heard of a single one. He asked if I knew any of the (according to him, at least) movers and shakers in Christian circles in the States. I tried to play the name-drop game too, but I don't really know anyone who's someone. (No offense if you're someone I know.) I haven't read the latest Christian bestseller (I can't even name one), and I don't care about what Al Mohler thinks about anything.

My friend was surprised that the things that were important to him weren't important to me. For him, it wasn't okay that I wasn't up on all the latest Christian news. He (seriously!) doubted my spiritual maturity because I thought that MyPraize or GodTube were good ideas. He questioned my understanding of scripture because I'm not enamored with Mike Huckabee (who is apparently the only presidential candidate a Christian should vote for).

Back home there are training programs to help teach Christians how to interact with lost people. I need one to help me learn how to relate to church people.

Why is it that church people are some of the most difficult people of all? Where everyone else gives you the benefit of the doubt, leave it to the religious folks to point out every flaw. Lost people call you "different," saved people call you a heretic. I don't understand that. I don't understand why the same Christians who cop out of rational debates with nonchristians by using blind faith arguments insist on using logic to prove their points in conversations with fellow believers. I don't understand how God's people back home can claim to love people, but ignore the lost and fight with the saved.

Why is it that I regularly have commenters who attack me? How could anyone chastise me for sharing what God is teaching me with an admonition ("Don't bite the hand that feeds you!" "You don't know how good you have it!")? I'm not complaining here. I can take criticism and disagreement. I can admit that I'm not always (hardly ever?) right. I just don't understand why do so many Christians consider those they disagree with (in knee-jerk reaction) to be enemies?

Maybe I just don't get Christians.