Thursday, October 10, 2013

Neither Here, Nor There

A friend of mine once made a very nice logo for me, which I have really appreciated:

If you notice, it has my initials and the colors of the American flag as well as the colors of the German flag.  This blending of the 2 colors accurately portrays how I've been feeling lately.

Discussing feelings is not one of my fortes, but I will try to explain it.

Three years ago my family was transferred from Germany to the United States.  We were there for 10 years.  One of the things I have taken pride in is the fact that I have never requested a transfer.  I view each and every appointment as the appointment I will retire from.  So moving from Germany to the United States wasn't something I actively looked for, which probably made the move that much harder for me.

Since being back in the United States, it has taken a lot for me to adjust to this culture.  I try to put it in perspective for people.  I moved to Germany before the attacks on the 11th of September 2001.  A lot had changed in America since then!  To me, it seems that the country has become a bit more paranoid and divisive.

Most missionaries can understand me when I say this:  When people ask me how my time was in Germany, they are looking for a few words or a sentence here and there.  Rarely do they want to hear my whole story.  Instead, their eyes usually glaze over with disinterest.  I was even told by a fellow colleague to refrain from talking about my time in Germany whenever I preached.

Invariably I am asked 2 things:  Do I miss Germany?  Do I want to return to Germany?  The answer to the first question is the easiest to respond to.  Yes.  I miss Germany very much.  I miss the people and the culture.  I miss the 300 different types of bread they have there (not just wheat, white, and sometimes rye).  I miss how for Germans being on time for an appointment means being there 5 minutes early.  I miss how German Christians place importance on religious holidays that Americans have forgotten:  Pentecost, Ascension Day, Epiphany.

The second question is more difficult to answer:  I will return if God wills it.  For now, I am planning to retire from my current appointment.

Which brings me to my next point.  I have heard recently many people talking about American Exceptionalism, a concept which I find tantamount to idolatry.  Simply by expressing my objection to this idea will cause many people to object to that statement.

Recently, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, said the following:  "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation . . . We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."  ( I actually agree wholeheartedly with the President of Russia in his statement here!  I don't agree with all of his policies, but this statement is true.

When we start to believe that somehow God has ordained our nation to be exceptional above all other nations, then we start to believe that we are better than all other inhabitants in the world.  This is actually contrary to Scripture.  Paul said in his epistle to the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  If this is the case, then we need to stop viewing ourselves as somehow better than the other nations in this world.  We may see God at work in our country, but other countries see his hand at work in their nation, too.

Hopefully, we won't turn into the pigs of Animal Farm and start saying, "All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others."