Earlier this month, we flew from Dublin to the US for a brief home assignment. This being our first return to the States since we moved to Ireland over 2 years ago, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’d heard all kinds of stories of reverse culture shock, how it can be surprising how unfamiliar things that were once familiar can become. But I wasn’t really sure how that would look. Would there be things I used to enjoy that now my tastes have changed? Things I once saw as normal that now seem strange? Would I feel out of place, even in places that have been my own community?

Look! You can count how many people are at this gathering.

That first Saturday when I was driving a rental car from California on a license from Nevada and paying with a bank card from Ireland… yeah that was a funny moment.

But really, I found time and again that this reverse culture shock didn’t hit me much, if at all. People, places, things – many felt familiar and welcome in my mind. I still love In-N-Out Burger. I can handle giant stores like Target and Walmart. Seeing old friends has been exciting and refreshing. Even things I expected to be awkward have, in large part, gone very well. Scratch that off the list of things to be concerned about – reverse culture shock is not a worry for this guy!

Well. Maybe not entirely.

For over two years, I have lamented the lack of spicy food in Dublin. I don’t care if you’re talking about Mexican food, Indian food, American food – it generally lacks that burn on the tongue. Don’t misunderstand… I’m not one of these guys who needs to have his taste buds chemically seared off at every meal. But a little spice here and there can be a welcome addition to good flavor.

Or at least I used to think so. Having gotten out of the habit, this month I found that foods that would not have raised an eyebrow for me before Ireland brought some hurt! The pho, curry, and Latin cuisine has had quite a different impact on my dining experience. To misquote the Wallflowers, I ain’t changed, but it seems I’m just not the same! I guess the old adage isn’t true – old dogs can learn new tricks, just not always the ones they’d like to learn.

And it’s just a reminder that, wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re always changing. The way we think – even our likes and dislikes – can shift significantly over the course of our lives. Some things, like spicy food, are incidental. Others, like our character, are not.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

Romans 12:2a [NASB]

Life changes us, and not always in good ways. But as we submit ourselves to God’s work in us, He will make ways for us not to be conformed to the world but transformed in Him. For those of us who have come to Him in faith, this is an encouragement to stay on His course. And for those who have not, I hope you see that, in the midst of life’s inconstant seasons, He is the only sure and steady Rock. May we all let His work of transformation, of liberating us from the world around us, take root in our lives.

Meanwhile, I’m going to lay off the spicy food…

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