As we prepared to move overseas, lots of people gave us lots of different kinds of advice.
Be a learner.
If I could offer any advice to anybody coming here, it is this: approach each situation as a learner. “But what if I’ve come to teach? To train? To “help?”
When you cross cultural boundaries, maintaining the idea that the systems and ways of doing things you’re accustomed to are correct, better or superior, typical, normal, or standard, might send you into a pit of frustration more often than not. Approaching each situation in a posture ready to learn has been such helpful advice for us. When finding myself deeply frustrated, hurt or just discouraged, usually it stems back to my expectations not being met, or something not being done according to my normal.
Be a learner.
Crossing cultural barriers is only one area in which being a learner is essential.
We need to be learners in our own homes. Firstly, we must become students of the Word. If we’re not instructing our hearts with God’s Word, where are we getting our instruction? Secondly, be a student of your spouse (if you’re married). Wives tend to hop onto this mission to improve or change their husband, and it’s so disdainful. Perhaps a topic for another day. But how would your relationship change if you set out on a mission to learn how you could really help your spouse, and spur them on in their pursuits? Set out to learn what makes them happy, anxious, discouraged, motivated, loved? Learn! And please don’t learn these things while thinking you should change him. Don’t be your husband’s Holy Spirit.
I am learning the importance of becoming a student of my own children. As much as God has entrusted me to teach them, I also must learn about them. Learn their special God-given personalities, interests, and how they respond to different things. As an effective teacher, I must learn about how they learn. I find myself becoming frustrated when they aren’t understanding things the way I expect them to. Parenting is a huge uphill journey, with countless unknown things along the way.
Above all – being a learner humbles us. Learners recognize they don’t have all of the answers. Learners recognize they don’t know everything. If we find ourselves thinking we do, we have created our own gods. But as long as we remain desiring to learn, our hearts remain open for divine interventions. And isn’t that what we all need?