It is easy to be negative here. I am actually a pretty positive, optimistic person by nature, but there is something about this place that can bring out the critical person in me… the trash, the overcrowded city, the “me first” mentality of the culture, the traffic torture, the pagan rituals, the dogs barking, the horns honking at 3 a.m., the mosquitoes…
(Chief with his rat... I hate rats. Good boy, Chief! We caught five in two days!)
When we first arrived, we were very busy getting the house set up. I didn’t have time to focus on the negatives. When we finished setting up the house, everything was so new it seemed more of an adventure than a bother. But once the newness wore off, the negativity set in… and so did the culture shock.
(The roaches have only gotten bigger... UGH!
Thankfully we haven't had too many.)
The children were already having to deal with the adjustments of living in our new country, and they picked up on my negativity (also known as complaining). We had only been here four months, and in my culture shock driven state, I began questioning how I could ever possibly live here. “I can’t do this! This is too big for me!”
(This was a very LIGHT traffic day. Heavy traffic days are frightening!
At least my prayer life has improved!)
I was struggling; so I turned to the place I knew I could get help. I bowed my knees and my heart, and I opened His Book.
Ephesians 5:18-21 “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
I was spiritually sick, and here was the Doctor’s diagnosis. My symptoms were a lack of joy in my heart, a lack of thankfulness for ALL things, and a lack of a humble, submissive heart toward others and toward God. My illness? I was not full of the Spirit. I was full of self.
Have you ever been “full of yourself?” Oh, how much it steals from us! We think we will make ourselves happy by pursuing our selfish desires and focusing on our own wants, but instead it robs us of joy, contentment, thankfulness, and the opportunity to be a blessing to others. At that moment, I wanted clean air, nice streets, everyone to speak English, and the quietness I had enjoyed my whole life in the peaceful mountains of Western North Carolina. I wanted... my desires... my plans...
When you place a teabag in hot water, what happens? What’s in the bag comes out, right? God had placed us in “hot water,” and what was in my heart was coming out. I thought I was fully submitted, but had God not put me in such hot water as this city, I do not think I would have ever realized my submission still had limits. I thought I could count every trial as joy (James 1:2), but when God placed my heart in the hot water of this new country, I found out that I had placed limits on what I wanted to count as joy.
With this new discovery, I had a choice. I could 1) be overwhelmed with the culture shock and negativity, or 2) I could repent, submit, and learn at an even greater degree to rely on God instead of relying on my optimistic nature.
I chose #2. The day that I made that choice, the joy returned. I began focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for here. Those things truly do outweigh the bad! And I began admitting to myself,
“No, I cannot do this…, but He has called me here; so He wants to do something THROUGH me. He CAN do it. It is not about ME!”
(Love our church family here!)
I am thankful for the “hot water” God placed us in. It helped me to see some things in my heart I would have never seen otherwise. No, I still do not like the traffic, the noises, the trash, and the rudeness… but I am learning to treasure the opportunities for growth these things bring.
Learn the symptoms of the dreaded Full-of-Self sickness… loss of joy, loss of thankfulness, loss of contentment, loss of submission and humility. The cure? Kneeling, reading the Book, repenting, and emptying yourself of… um… SELF.
So what hot water has God placed you in?