Friday, September 10, 2010

A New Season

Wow! It's been a long time since I've updated this blog. The summer has already past and now we are in the middle of fall. Even the farmers know there's something to be said about taking a break and letting the ground lie fallow for a season. It helps the ground replenish it's nutrients and become rich again. This quiet season hasn't actually been fallow, but during all the summer busyness of traveling, studying and making connections for further projects, I have also taken a good deal of time to internally reflect about what I have learned in the past two years of living here.

In my attempt to more succinctly define my understandings of the Chinese culture, people and belief systems, (and my role here) I've had to undergo many paradigm shifts. For those of you new to that phrase, let me make this easy. When you look at the picture on the right, what do you see? A duck or a rabbit? Whatever you see, it's right! Both can be seen depending on how you look at it. A paradigm is like the model or structure that all your previous ideas have been filtered through. It comes through the paradigm of culture, education, experiences, and personal core beliefs. When I came to China my paradigms of how to live life here and interact with the Chinese were pretty much already determined. I had my ideas and a course of action. Now after two years of real life in China, my single vision "paradigm" lenses seem to have been replaced by bifocals, enabling me to see much more clearly from close up and far away. My paradigms have shifted. Perhaps the reason my thoughts and ideas are changing is because China is changing so fast. The name of the game here is flexibility. It is important to be both grounded in non-negotiable truths and flexible enough in your thinking to allow for those truths to be expressed in a culturally relevant way while still maintain their integrity. Sound complicated? It is...but it's no different in the West! I'm serious! Things are not traditional there anymore either. It takes a lot of creativity and flexibility to relate to people who don't have any frame of reference for dialoguing with you on the deeper issues of life. This much I do know. Truth doesn't change but expressions and forms expressing those truths will always be changing. We have so many traditions and sacred cows; ways we are convinced are "right" when the truth is, they are probably greatly influenced by our culture and history. I think our friend Paul said it best in (I Cor. 9:19-23) when he said, "I have become all things to all people.... Living truth with integrity is not an easy task and I am humbled by the challenge to do it in China. I also know this. China is changing me as I have a role in changing China. Maybe this is what's actually mean in the Lord's Prayer when it says, Thy Kingdom Come. When that day arrives there will be no "them or us" no "Western way or Chinese way" there will only be one way-His Way! And I think we all might be surprised at what that might look like. :)