I’ve mentioned this great analogy before, but during our cross-cultural training, we transplanted a living plant from one pot to another and talked about the process of being transplanted from one culture to another. What an amazing illustration! Here was our little plant, perfectly happy in it’s little pot when suddenly it is uprooted and it’s comfy dirt and pot shaken off and left behind. Some roots are broken in the process and some are carried along and planted in the new pot. This freshly transplanted little flower is in a precarious situation now where in order to survive, it needs to be watered and cared for and must work hard to put down roots into this new and foreign soil. If it fails to do so, it will begin to wither.
We know that God is the one who chooses this new soil, who places us just right in this new “pot,” who waters us, who tends to us, and who even ultimately enables roots to grow, so the analogy is imperfect, but I think it has some good parallels as we strive to do the things that we can in order to thrive.
Being uprooted, as many can attest to, can be traumatic as our roots are untangled from our home and some are even broken in the process. We arrive in our new soil alive and in much the same appearance as when we were uprooted, but we must soon grow new roots in order to survive.
While thinking of the idea of putting down new roots, I’ve thought it important to consider the roots that held me firmly in place back “home” and that used to served as little channels of life. Loved ones, a church family, hobbies, special places, parts of the culture that I loved, appreciation for the history of my country and city, cultural understanding and feeling like an insider, knowledge of the language…. There were so many roots that made me really thrive in that soil.
Thinking now about thriving in this new soil, I’ve realized that I need similar roots here. These roots aren’t exactly the same, but they need to channel health to my various areas of need. Here are a few of the more significant new roots that have been most life-giving to me personally:
-Love for the people. For me, loving the people of Russia means truly knowing them on a heart level. It is very hard to feel love for a person unless you spend time getting to know them. I want to know and truly love the people of Russia. This for me means meaningful relationships, sharing life, and learning to appreciate and participate in normal Russian daily life. This takes more energy and effort than most other things, but is so incredibly life-giving. From this one root, so many others can grow.
-Prayer for the people and country. The more I pray for Russia, the more I love this country and its people because I participate in God’s heart for Russians. In order to pray effectively, I need to know Russia’s needs and to feel heartache over them. The more I learn about Russia and its needs, the more I am motivated to pray, and the deeper the roots go that attach my heart to this land.
-Thankfulness and enjoyment of the culture. Though the culture here is very different and some of the things that I miss from back “home” can never be exactly replaced, there are unique aspects of beauty in this new culture that I would have never experienced had I never come here. I make it a conscious effort to observe the parts of Russian culture that I personally enjoy and admire and to thank God for the opportunity to experience them. It can also be great fun to find new hobbies in your new culture. I took Caucus dancing for awhile when living in Southwest Russia, and it was so fun!
-Growth in knowledge. Specifically growing in cultural understanding and language ability are the main ways that growing in knowledge causes me to establish stronger roots. The more that I understand the culture, the better I am able to process and appreciate the differences between Russian culture and my own without being critical. The more that I have the language at my disposal, the more that my world here in Russia opens up.
I wanted to end by saying that though there is much that we can do to put down strong roots in order to thrive, we must also accept that by God’s divine plan, sometimes floods and storms do come and uproot even the most firmly rooted of plants, not to mention that sometimes The Gardener simply comes gently along and decides to move our little plant once again to new place that He’d simply prefer having us. A transplant may be permanent, or temporary, depending on the will of The Gardener, and our job is simply to try to put down those roots whenever and wherever He plants us so that we can thrive as best as possible for the time that He has us there.
What are some things that have personally helped you put down roots in your host culture? Do you relate to the ones above, or are there some that you would like to add? Are there any parts of your plant that are still needing to find a source of life? And remember, God is ultimately our source of all things! Even if the soil around you appears to be nothing but desert sand, God still has heavenly provision for your growth (and that is a whole different post)!
(Post by: Ashley)