Our son had just turned 4 years old when we moved to Alabama from Washington DC. I’m originally from Oregon and my husband from Pennsylvania, so imagine the culture shock we experienced moving to the South. Everything from the slower pace, to the food and sweet tea, was different.
What was one of the most noticeable differences? The “language”!!! For instance, when we arrived we rented a house on Lake Jordan. The native Alabamians sounded like they were saying “Light Jerden” every time they attempted to correct our pronunciation. Don’t even get me started on how we “mispronounce” the name of our town now!
Not long after we settled into life in the South, my boys came home from breakfast at a restaurant chatting about a bunch of ladies who sounded like sheep as they departed their morning meeting. I asked the boys to explain why they were comparing women to sheep. Turns out all these women saying “bye” to one another in a southern dialect was heard by the PA boys as “bah,” as in “bah-bah,” the noise sheep make! To this day, we still giggle as a family if we hear a strong southern “bah.”
Something as small as the dialect is something that is included in figuring out the culture of a new location. It makes me think of how overwhelmed Ruth could have been when she left all she knew in Moab to follow her Mother-in-law, Naomi to Israel. There was a new dialect, new customs, new food, and most notably in this story, a new religion.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God offers us a promise that He is looking out for our best interest and for our future…even in the middle of culture changes. “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (NASB).
Imagine leaving the status of being a Moabite Princess to become a Jewish refugee in Israel. Ruth had so much to learn and a ton of new norms to become accustomed to…and yet, she did it with complete loyalty towards her husband’s family. The example Ruth provides is one of complete immersion into the culture.
Let me ask you this…when has God taken you out of your comfort zone and you’ve had to learn a new culture? In the current climate in America, perhaps now is an appropriate time to learn about what others consider their culture. I’m not saying you should move to another part of the country or forgo all you know, like Ruth. I am suggesting, that it may be time to consider taking some steps towards understanding our fellow Christians and what type of cultures they hold dear.
It might be an opportunity to chat about God in a whole new way…