12 September 2014

When the Culture Wars Are Actually Spiritual

My senses were maxed out.

The sights crowded me into a claustrophobic corner. The sounds boomed a dull buzz all around so silence--when it crept in--was frightening. The smells threatened my resolve to be polite.

And these were only three of my five senses. The other two cowered, waiting for their turns to protest.

But when these calmed down, when the culture shock eased over time into culture sting then into culture norm, I could recognize another sense wakening--a spiritual awareness--that needed not only honing but also intentional use.

In the bustle that bombards my foreigner experience, I must turn on my sensitivity to spiritual things.

Just as my hearing seems 10x better when I close my eyes, my spiritual senses likewise discern situations more accurately when I block out the distractions. So oftentimes in cross-cultural situations, we can mistake a spiritual issue as a cultural one . . . just because our five physical senses are exasperated.

Instead of rudeness, I should sense brokenness.
Instead of anger, I should sense attack.
But also . . .
Instead of curiosity, I should sense openness.
Instead of coincidences, I should sense God.

Spiritual sensitivity is being keen to oppression as well as compassion--to see past the flesh in search of the spirit. It resonates from a life so focused on God that everything in His creation breathes either in His favor or as a battle cry against Him. It is a high respect for the Holy Spirit's movements among men and a willing heart to be moved, or stilled, for His purposes.

To be spiritually sensitive is to live knowing that the Spirit is on earth--is here.  It is also knowing that evil spirits roam in every country. They, too, are here.

How do we forget? With our five senses working hard, our spiritual sense can go stagnant. So especially in unfamiliar places, we must remember the other realm to this world; otherwise, we will live cross-culturally but disconnected. We must remember that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

Culture wars can be fought with language lessons, community involvement, grace, and time.
Spiritual wars must be fought with the armor of God.

So more important than the culturally-sensitive clothes we choose to wear today is whether or not we choose to put on

the belt of truth
the breastplate of righteousness
the preparation of the gospel of peace
the shield of faith
the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

My son's AWANA craft is a great reminder of what we need to "wear" each day.

In the midst of the everyday clashes of living abroad, remember that not all problems are cultural and that most problems are spiritual. An intentional sensitivity to the Spirit can assimilate us faster than any crash course on our host country. Let's remember where we are and what surrounds us, even if our immediate location is maxing out our five senses.

Abide in Him,

Please Share: How do you hone your spiritual sensitivity? 

To read more about spiritual formation, come join the conversation at The Grove.

Related articles you may also appreciate:
People Are People Everywhere
The (Road) Rage Within
The Boastful Pride of (Missions) Life


  1. Followed you over here from the Grove on Velvet Ashes. The idea of discerning between culture stress and the spiritual realm as they intersect gives me some great food for thought. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome! Several days later, I'm still thinking about this one too. I claim "culture" too often and dull my spiritual sense. Thanks for stopping over. ^^

  2. ooh- yes. what a reminder and challenge! fasting (when I'm not breastfeeding) is one way to "turn on my spiritual sensitivity." And also being very mindful of what I run to in order to zone out, or numb...the internet places I frequent, the movies I watch, the books I read- all this can fine tune or drown out the spirit! thank you for bringing your thoughts to the Grove!

    1. Thanks for all the great suggestions for fine tuning spiritual sensitivity!

  3. You are so right. The overwhelmingness of life abroad sometimes does get in the way of my spiritual sensitivity to things like brokenness of others and opportunities/invitations from God. I like this new way of thinking of my intentional spiritual practices: as tuning into the wavelength the Lord wants me to be on. Thank you so much for this.

    1. "Tuning into the Lord's wavelength" is a perfect way to describe turning up our spiritual senses. ^^ Thanks!


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