To be honest, the first time we came back home (summer 2012), we encountered some massive reverse culture shock. We've since learned that reverse culture shock is common for almost everyone returning from an intense experience overseas. It's not a bad thing, but it is indeed a "thing," and things shouldn't be ignored. I therefore want to be proactive in acknowledging it, naming it, and taking steps to transform it into something healthy and beneficial for all of us (i.e. you and me, dear reader :). I'm proposing this "coming home covenant" as a way to respond to counter culture shock.
No worries at all if you have questions--in fact, asking the questions will hopefully lead to deeper truth and insight for all of us. The biggest thing is we don't want to ignore the counter culture shock. So thank you, dear reader, for playing an active role in our story and in our visit back to the US. Your kindness and regard are truly a blessing :).
For those we are unable to see this time: please know that a "no" on this visit is because we want our "yes" to be heartfelt and fully present for the next time we are able to see you. The reality of limited time, money and energy restricts how much we can give, but what we DO give, we want to give well. We will be incredibly blessed to receive your gift of presence to us when you feel called to give it (whether in the US, China, or elsewhere :). In the meantime, we honor that you are also navigating the beautiful and complex reality of being a human with limitations :).
So, without further ado, here is my (first draft :) of a Coming Home Covenant:
1) We have just flown almost 20 hours, and spent thousands of dollars, to return for a visit with you. We are using up a big chunk of our vacation time, as well as our health and energy, to make this visit happen. Please accept all of time, effort, and a gift to you. We WANT to give this gift, and please trust us to know the best manner and timing for offering it. If you have questions about how we are structuring our time home, we are happy to answer them. Please ask. We much prefer clarity over incorrect expectations or assumptions.
2) While we are here in China, we idealize the US. We are often homesick for certain people, places, and comforts. Yet our memories of the US are quite biased--we typically remember only the good, and not the bad. So please be patient with us as we attempt to reconcile the ideal and the reality. Compared with the mirage of a fantasy, we are grateful that the reality will ultimately be more beautiful. Such beauty, however, will only shine forth for us in all of its stunning complexity, love, and depth on the other side of wrestling with reverse culture shock.
3) Even though technology keeps us connected to the US, the truth is there is much about US pop culture from the past four years that we do not understand. We want to hear about the latest movies, catch phrases, TV shows, technology, Youtube videos, memes, etc.. Please give us space to ask dumb questions. Also please accept that we may have some sensory overload, and may need to call a "time out" from US pop culture so we can process everything.
4) We want to share about life here in China, and we thirst to hear about your life since we saw you last. We desperately need to listen, as well as to share. Please help us in offering equal parts listening ears, as well as patient explanation. One of the biggest reasons we are returning home is to have these blessed, life-giving conversations. We love spending time with you! :) Yet it may take some effort on all of our parts to ask good, open-ended questions that lead to deep conversation. If we don't know what to ask or to say to each other, perhaps the simple question, "what would you like to tell me about your life lately?" is a good starting point :). Let's all please be proactive in engaging such dialogue.
5) We have changed in big ways the past four years, and I'm sure you have changed, as well. What hasn't changed is our love for each other. Some of our expressions of that love, though, have grown and matured. We will be examining every habit, tradition, and activity that we did before we moved here, and we will be considering if each one is still appropriate for ourselves and for our relationship with you. Some of those expressions may not "fit" us anymore, and we may have some new expressions that we want to try.
Please accept that if we gently say "no" to certain activities we liked before we moved here, or say "yes" to something new, it is not a threatening response. It is actually our heartfelt, healthy way of showing our love to ourselves and to you as we currently are, in the year 2015. It is celebrating that complex and beautiful reality that we are aiming for, as discussed in number two above :).
We'll also offer you the same space to say "no" and "yes" to such activities and traditions. We are happy to give you the space to ask us why we say "yes" or "no." We will do our best to answer your questions, and if we do not have an answer yet, we will try to formulate one for our next encounter. Please also accept our questions about any "yes" or "no" on your part as a healthy and earnest attempt to understand you more deeply. We trust that there will be many activities that are still appropriate and life-giving for all of us, as well as some new ones that bring us joyful surprises :).
So there we go, dear reader. I hope this covenant not only helps to explain and to clarify our reality when we visit, but that it can facilitate deep, meaningful, and delightful time together when we return home. :)