The Italy saga continued…
I had made it. I was in one piece, I had all my luggage, and I still had (some) money left.
Like the previous weeks of the trip, I entered into this new county, new culture, and new people with no previous experiences or expectations to guide me. Everything was completely fresh and I was pretty naïve. Such a good place to be. It really makes one be a student of every person, experience, and group I saw. I had learned to be nobody of any importance and to enter into conversations and settings with an open mind, placing my perceptions and opinions lower than those I was coming in contact with. Part of that is well attributed to the language barrier. Even if I disagreed, I usually couldn’t express it in an understanding way; I was forced to constantly listen and observe. Being a foreigner gives one a responsibility to be respectful, not a right to lord one’s personal, cultural opinions over the native people. Americans, and specifically American Christians, are so domineering and harsh about our beliefs. I saw it in myself, and I felt it when I returned to the States. It made me cringe and slightly uncomfortable whenever I sensed it, because quite frankly it is normal and expected. By God’s grace may we become humble people, because in such a state as we are we may never be able to effectively spread the Gospel to His kingdom; our insistence to be “right” may very well paralyze any effort to extend the arms of the Body to place the Truth into the hands of the unreached people groups.
Personal practical lessons and applications of humility:
- Approach each conversation and interaction with the thought: What can I learn from this person? Can I be the one that has the wrong or weak view/understanding?
- Become a person of unending questions. Asking questions help reveal why that person believes what they believe. Dozens of factors come into play here: background, culture, family, tragedies, experiences, relationships, etc…
- NEVER assume. Each person, place and experience must be a blank slate. Assuming can ruin things and you can be looking for something to happen while all the while you are missing the new, unique aspects transpiring right now.
- Be wise. To balance off the previous point, allow a blank slate to be present, but allow it to add on to and complement your previous knowledge and experience. For instance, I had been living with those that had extreme pasts of drugs and violence. When I entered into a more “normal” life in Italy, I actually got to meet others in the church that had been saved from a similar life style. In wisdom, I could speak and listen knowledgably and walk in love towards that person, knowing past temptations may still be strongly present with them. And then I also had a choice: take over the conversation with “I know what your saying and this is everything I have to say about it!…” or I could store up what I was hearing, ask questions, and be blessed to build on to the mountain of amazing stories of real lives radically altered by the grace of God. More often than not we just need to shut up.
- Shut up. But seriously, shut up. Quit talking about everything you know, that church planting article you read on twitter, recent revelation, what you read in your Bible, saw in your church, all your blessings, all your sins, awesome Piper book, God’s working in your life, blah blah blah. Sometimes we talk so much about what we “know” about God and all our spiritual stuff and insights that we totally miss out on the real soul in front of us that is dying for lack of real ministry of mercy. If only we would listen. and keep listening. and keep listening. Until we reach the core of the Jesus-need that resides in their pain-seared heart. Oh man I need this lesson—so convicting. Because haven’t I myself been that very person?
- Do not be afraid to fail. While in Spain, I especially had a major back-lash of culture and language immersion in which I skyrocketed initially, and then fell straight rock-bottom. It was a very humiliating experience because it all was a lot more difficult that I expected. Instead of humbling and rising up, I humbled myself and stayed there, too afraid for a time to venture out in the language because I couldn’t effectively communicate; not trying and withdrawing was a whole lot easier than trying and imminent failure. I regretted that, and if I could go back and change anything, I would persevere in communication and language despite set-backs and humiliation. Some things are just more important that my perception before others. This even wore into my time in Italy; I constantly struggled to express myself and felt a huge disconnect of who I was as a person and how I fit in. I struggled to participate and invest myself while feeling like I was failing at it.
I look back and see a life-lesson: go hard after failure, because you just might happen to succeed. Because even succeeding at failure is still success, right?