Sunday, December 22, 2013

On Being a Brat, And a Bit of a Pharisee

So, it's been a bit of a stressful week around here in the mission field. We had some crazy unexpected moments when our bank (thankfully) noticed some fraudulent charges on our account and blocked our debit card, which is our only way to make purchases and access cash here. Then the notice from our landlord that they want to sell our house, so we need to be out by the end of January. Our oldest returning to Costa Rica after a time in the States, traveling alone internationally, through icy and snowy Detroit with threats of cancellations. And then, a twelve year old who required an emergency appendectomy and a three day hospital stay.

Ironically, this kid was a total champ and never complained once. Clearly, he has learned not follow my example.

And I am admitting that by the time I found myself shivering next to hospital bed at 4:00 am working on 20 minutes of sleep, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself.

You see, living life overseas, you get a glimpse of the way the rest of the world sees Americans. And sometimes you get a glimpse of where their impression of us as a bit pushy and bratty comes from. I have come to self-righteously applaud myself for learning to blend in to another culture. To speak their language and do things their way and not get my feathers ruffled when it makes no sense to me. (Okay, I get them ruffled, but I keep it between me and my husband.) I do not think most Americans are at heart spoiled people who intend to be single-minded culturally. I think we do not quite realize how the fierce individualism that is a core value of our culture makes it easy for us to off as having a sense of entitlement in cultures where that kind of individualism does not have high value, where what is valued is an inherent understanding of cultural norms and rules and a willingness to quietly do what is expected.

I thought I had become pretty willing. I mean, I've gotten used to sweeping and mopping my front porch because it is a rule, and have instilled in my kids the fear of ever walking barefoot, and the habit of not showering at night because it is bad for you, and I even remember to have three forms of identification and documentation on me at all times.  I was a pretty proud little peacock, all right. Until our hospital stay revealed me for what I am, still a bit of a brat, and because of my pride, a bit of a pharisee too.

You see, when your child is sick, your comfort reactors go into overdrive, right? You want to mother and nest and make everything just so for him. In the States, our hospitals and doctor's offices tend to reflect that. There is an attempt to make things feel cozy and homey and give you some sense of control over the circumstances and environment. Here? Not so much?

We have discussed the reality of medical emergencies here before, theoretically. And agreed, theoretically, that the medical system is adequate to handle most situations that would occur and that the $70 a month we pay for total medical coverage made any small sacrifices we had to adjust to worth it. I was SO above the American bratiness that demanded everything be just so for my kids. And me.

Until I wasn't. Which happened when theory became reality.

I am embarrassed by how that ugly sense of entitlement reared its head. Never once was worried about my child's actual medical care. First of all, it was an appendectomy, not a brain tumor. Secondly, we were in the highest rated hospital in the country, where preemies are treated in intensive care, and kids are cured of cancer. I was totally confident in the actual medical care Gabriel received.

What made me uncomfortable and left me feeling like this was not good enough for my child (and if I'm being honest, me) was all purely environmental...ambience, people, the place lacked ambience. And there were so. many. rules. And it made me feel stupid and humiliated that I had no inherent understanding of those rules and had to be corrected to the not so understanding nurse supervisor. I felt like a child out of his element, and raw with emotions. And when a child in that situation gets corrected, how does he respond? Well, by pouting publicly on Facebook like a true brat, of course.

And pout I did. About the uncomfortable chairs and not being allowed to put my feet up. About not being allowed to charge my phone. Or eat my Hershey's kisses. And on the inside? I pouted about a whole host of other things. About only one of us being allowed to enter the hospital at a time. About the dumb card that has to get whole punched when you change care takers so you don't exceed your limit of three changes per day. About iron beds and three public showers and toilets for a ward of at least 50 kids. About nurses who talked loudly and flipped on light switches every fifteen minutes all. night. long.

I tried to convince myself it was just sleep deprivation, but when I started to have obsessive thoughts about Starbucks peppermint mocha cappuccinos and shopping for shoes, I had to admit the truth. I am still a bit of an individualistic, entitlement minded brat, and a bit of a pharisee for the way I've judged others with those tendencies.

Yeah. I bought shoes and new outfit to celebrate his release. Long way to go, I tell you.

I spent a long night repenting and ask God to show me how to be like the Virgin of the Manger, who laid her little down in less than perfect conditions and humbly accepted that God chooses to be Emmanuel in humble places, where there is room for Him because He is not crowded out by what was there before Him, where there is need for Him because the need is not met by self-sufficiency, and where a world cries out for Him the silent darkness because it has not lit its own way.

Yes, I was humbled by my confrontation with my inner brat and pharisee. But perhaps it was just what I need to bring me deep into the spirit of Advent. Seeing how far I have to go to truly be Christ-like. And seeing that on my own, I am just a pouting, broken little mess.

When we arrived at our hotel after Gabriel was released, the maid came to make the extra roll-away bed and was inquiring about how he was. She smiled wide and declared, "That hospital is the BEST. The nurses are so wonderful. My four year old son died of cancer there two years ago. But they helped him so, so much and were so kind to me." Apparently. not being able to put her feet up wasn't that big of a deal.

And so I find myself at the foot of the empty manger and begging Him to come. Emmanuel, come. And save me from myself. Because I am far from you. And I cannot raise myself up. I need you to come down and rescue me. Free me from by inner brat and my inner Pharisee. Let love burn away my messiness and bring me liberty. And make me happy in the stables where the Jesus-lovers belong.

So grateful that being a brat doesn't exempt you from having awesome kids.

1 comment:

  1. Somehow I missed this post, but I love your inner brat and pharisee too :)