Maybe you’re a Christian.
Maybe you’re not.
If you are the latter, I hope you can glean something from this writing today.
Western world thinking is not the same as Eastern world thinking.
I think being a Christian in America may have some ideas that need adjustment. That’s because I am a Christian in America and I am aware of my ongoing need!
We are a very productive, goal-oriented society. Input – output. Do this, get that.
So when things do not go as planned or what you worked hard for, well, some of us fall apart. It shows up with anger, frustration, self-pity, and/or depression.
Consider this excerpt from an article taken from the NY Times:
Western culture … conditions people to think of themselves as highly independent entities. And when looking at scenes, Westerners tend to focus on central objects more than on their surroundings.
I came to terms with this some time ago. Over the course of 30 years, my perfectionist and ambitious temperament latched on to the scriptures that talked about doing. Prayer, commitment, service, dedication, and did I mention prayer?
You can imagine when things did not go well after I worked so hard at covering all the bases. Especially when pro-active faith is front and center in your church experience.
Our strengths can be our weaknesses. I am motivated, detailed oriented, and a perfectionist. I thought this was a good thing and they are certainly qualities conducive to good character as outlined in the Bible.
But those things eventually became weaknesses when anything got out of my control. Gradually, as I learned to acknowledge and trust God with each situation, I became less and less irritated.
Hmm. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It’s a huge struggle. But it’s worth it in the end.
Because God is not an American, he doesn’t only teach us through a central object but through our surroundings (see above quote).
Long ago, I was introduced to a few books written by Watchman Nee, a Chinese church leader and teacher during the 20th century.
I was also introduced to not thinking like an American.
Nee saw through a different lens. He saw God working from the inside out through using our every day experiences to shape us and really, to free us from our strengths becoming our weaknesses.
Americans are geared for learning from the outside in. Give me a book. Give me a list. Give me a class. Attend a conference. Then apply (or not).
There is nothing wrong with this. Yet, at best, it doesn’t always last.
When God does something in us, it lasts. Even if we forget and fall back, he reminds us, and builds upon what he began in us.
There’s the small irritations like the time I planted tulips and they didn’t come up.
Then there’s the really big things like divorce, a child’s death, or a serious illness.
Big or small, God wants us to have peace, joy, contentment, strength, and so much more – no matter what we are going through. When we accept our situations instead of resisting with anger, frustration or self-pity, we are allowing God to work within us.