Cultural Observations from Abroad
April Phillips, Laura Luster, Michele McKinley and I just got back from a fun-filled trip to Europe. I do not write that to gloat...rather I write it to give you an idea of where this post is coming from. It was such a great opportunity to spend time with friends and explore different cultures (both English and French). We also got to experience a ton of history! The trip is definitely a memory I will cherish for a very long time.
It was also a fun chance to live the unhindered life of a single adult. Seriously, there is no time like the present to save money and take a fun trip (whether domestic or abroad). We live in such a unique season to serve the church and develop relationships with other singles, but we also have a unique opportunity to explore and pursue interests and travels in ways that married couples (or couples with children) cannot. Carolyn McCulley touched on this a little in our girls' luncheon with her -- we as singles are called, just as any other Christian adult, to live life. For the glory of God, yes, but also as a means of experiencing His green earth. So whether it's running marathons, scuba diving, cooking or photography classes, learning to play an instrument, or taking a trip somewhere you have always wanted to explore...go ahead and live your single life (just as long as it is for the glory of God).
So...two observations on European culture...one on modesty and the other on the Gospel.
1. Modesty. There is an absolute lack of it across the pond. Whether you look at advertisements or the clothes people wear...there is not only a lack of modesty but a lack of concern for it. Modesty is not something that I tend to struggle with or something I really give much thought to (with jeans, t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts there is not much I concern myself with except color coordination) but I definitely had a lot of time to think about it on our trip. Daily someone in our group remarked about how our clothes made us stand out as Americans. True to a degree but I think our clothes made a bolder statement about what we wanted to be characterized by. We were not trying to be known by our appearance rather we want our adorning to be that of the "hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious" (1 Peter 3:4).
The lack of modesty we observed made me that much more appreciative of the teaching we have received on Biblical womanhood and guarding our hearts. It also impressed on me the importance of Christian woman maintaining high levels of modesty for the sake of their Christian brothers. If it was distracting for me to walk around the greenspaces or through the underground while constantly having to avert my eyes to avoid...whatever...then how much more difficult is it for the guys? By seeking to dress modestly we can serve our brothers by helping them fight the fight but also by giving them respite from the battle they are fighting elsewhere.
2. The Gospel. Our last Sunday in London we were able to sneak into an evening service at Westminster Abbey. It was pretty cool to sit under the beautiful ceiling and listen to the organ echo through the church while looking at the light shine through the stained glass windows. I was excited to sing the hymns, say the prayers and hear the word of God preached in such an old church. But as service started, I (along with the other girls) were slightly confused as to what was going on. Although we sang a couple hymns, and the priest/reverend read out of the Bible (I believe twice), and there was prayer there was a distinct lack of the Gospel. In fact, there was no mention of it at all. It was strange to be in a church and to merely go through the motions and to not talk about what is of most importance. Walking out of Westminster Abbey made me grateful for our pastoral team and their dedication to the Gospel. We not only hear it every Sunday morning, but it encompasses everything we do on a Sunday morning. I do not think we need to fear a Sunday without the Gospel because our church knows that without the Gospel we would not enjoy the relationship we have with Christ.
I love to travel. It gives me the chance to observe and experience different cultures. I also like how, in seeing other cultures, I am often given a new perspective and appreciation for my culture (and church!). I hope you look forward to church this Sunday -- where people will wear clothes and the Gospel will be proclaimed (over and over and over...)! I know I cannot wait for it...I hope to see you there!