Three Things to Remember When Finding a New Normal
Going through any kind of transition can be difficult. New patterns of life can be shocking and new rhythms confusing. At times this can be exciting, but other times it can be scary or stressful. Reverse Culture Shock has the ability to bring about all of these emotions and leave you feeling bewildered.
So what should your next steps be as you try to create new routines and a “new normal” in your daily life? When you or friends you know start wading through the waters of culture shock, reverse culture shock, or just a new season of life, keep in mind these three things:
1. You have purpose
In the days following your return from overseas, you may feel as if you have lost your purpose. Your life looks different now, but your worth and purpose hasn’t changed. While you were abroad you probably had many exciting experiences and you were probably sharing the gospel a lot more and maybe those patterns all changed when you got home. The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” In what ways can you enjoy God today? In what ways can you glorify God today?
2. Be patient with yourself and others around you
Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock can be traumatic experiences, whether we like to express it that way or not. When I returned home I immediately jumped into driving, finding a job, and going to school full-time and I expected myself to adjust perfectly to all of the change. I didn’t allow time for myself to process everything I had experienced. It was almost as if I pushed my Hungarian memories to the back of my mind and only thought of that season as a dream. In some ways, I acted as if it didn’t really happen. Coming home was a challenge; I couldn’t figure out how to speak about my time, and people didn’t know what to ask me. So I remained silent on the topic and suppressed my emotions. Something I wish I had had when I came home is the Conversation Cards with questions and topics to talk about.
Often times cross-cultural workers are seen as “super-spiritual” and put on a pedestal. Sadly, I felt like I needed to keep up a certain image and pretend like everything was perfect. I was resting in my own ability for good and healing rather than God’s. I needed to admit that I was struggling; yet I didn’t. Make sure to give yourself and others grace during this season, it will not last forever.
3. Embrace the differences
Throughout your time abroad, you have probably changed, your friends have changed, and your favorite places have changed. Many things will feel different. It’s hard to not let those differences bog you down and chain you into isolation. A solution is to embrace those differences and take advantage of this new season! If your style has changed, embrace it. If your family and friends have changed, embrace them. Seek to understand your home culture, just as you sought to understand your host culture. This season is a wonderful time of learning and growing! Rather than being afraid of the change, allow the Lord to work in you and use this season for his glory and your good.
Through this new time of life, continue leaning on the Lord as your foundation and do not stray from him or his gospel of grace. Remember you still have purpose. Remember to be patient with yourself and others around you. Remember to embrace the newfound differences. You will make it through!