Today I was talking with a friend who is soon to return to her native country after a year at Texas. While here, she had some experiences that led her to becoming a Christian. One of the things we discussed was culture shock, and how much worse it usually is returning home than leaving, a phenomenon known as “reverse culture shock.”
The idea is that you are returning to your own home after having many new experiences and your friends and family living the same routine. You expect everything to continue on as if you had never left, except that you have changed as a result of your experiences, so your old life doesn’t fit like it used to, and friends and family can’t understand or relate to you quite the same way, so it takes a while to adapt to a new equilibrium. When you leave to go abroad, you expect things to be different, so the culture shock is minimized. When you return, you expect things to be the same, and they are different.
My friend had been abroad before and so understood this phenomenon, but this time things will be even more different because she not only has had new experiences, but in fact is a new creation in Christ, and folks back home do not yet know of her conversion. As she put it, “it is too big of a thing to put into an email that you have been baptized.”
This got me thinking. The Bible says that as believers, our lives here are lived as aliens and strangers, and we await our home. So the question is, when we get to heaven, will it be culture shock or reverse culture shock?
John Denver, that crooning icon of evangelism, described the feeling in his famous song, “Rocky Mountain High” when he sang of a man coming to the Colorado Rockies for the first time—“he was coming home, to a place he’d never been before.”
Scripture talks a lot about heaven, but leaves so many of the useful details fuzzy. It’s like God invites us to dream and imagine heaven, to raise our expectations as high as possible, only to reveal when we get there they simply weren’t high enough.
That’s a shock I can look forward to.