When we grow up in one culture, we are only aware of that one river. It’s banks; it’s flow; it’s depth. We know of certain pitfalls and exciting rapids. We ourselves have not navigated the whole river, but we have been taught by those who are further downstream in the same river, so we are prepared. We are familiar with how life works on our river and we expect everyone lives in a similar fashion, on other rivers. Even if we hear stories of different ways of living, we still can’t truly comprehend the differences, unless we leave our river and make our life on another one. Not just a quick visit, but really settle into a new life there.
That is a challenge.
All the things we knew and had come to expect on our river, suddenly don’t happen or work in the new river. And this river is just as strong. And as you hesitate, confused and lost on the new river, trying to swim the only way you know how, you start to go under. You feel like you’re drowning. It’s overwhelming, scary, and disorienting.
It’s easy to blame the new river. “Why isn’t this river like my last river?” Or blame the people who live on the new river. “Why don’t people do things they way people do things on my river?” But it’s not the river’s fault, nor the people who have been navigating that river for generations.
I left my river and came to this one, and it’s up to me to adjust. I’m not here to change the river or everyone who lives on it. And if I am, I’ll knock myself out in a futile battle. I’m here to change. To learn about other rivers and other river-dwellers. To better understand my own perceptions, expectations, and prejudices. To grow in strength, love, and compassion. And mostly, I’m here to magnify the Creator of all rivers and the Passionate Pursuer of all river-dwellers. When I focus on Him, more than my old river, the ride becomes smoother, clearer, and much more purposeful.