Understanding the culture of Spain: From an American perspective, it’s quite different. In fact, coming from were I was 4 weeks ago, I didn’t understand why Spaniards live the way they do. Now I understand and am enjoying the way they do things. I understand that we, as Americans, see things differently. That’s okay so long as we meet them were they are, and do not try to change their way of life.
Our mission work…. well, it’s more like discipleship training. We are not building homes, or schools or churches for people to dwell in. Instead, what may be happening here is the building up of the people themselves. We are sharpening, encouraging, and being healing hands for one another.
I heard the other day about a law here in Spain. The law states that a building in construction will not be taxed until the outside of the building is completed. Needless to say in this economy, a lot of the buildings are incomplete. They are inhabited, they are occupied, but they are unfinished. And so, why would the owners want them to be completed if it will be taxed? We are not here to fix this town on the outside, but to be among the people from with in.
The people here in Spain stay out late. Very late compared to us in the States. From ages 16- 40 (give or take a year or so) they will stay out easily until 4 or 4:30 am, and that’s not that late to the Spanish of this age. But in the States, that’s a bad hour, nothing good happens after midnight. What should we (as Americans) do then? Go to bed at 11 or midnight because that’s what they do in America? No way! If we did, we would miss out on the time we could spend meeting and hanging out with new friends. Not everyone thinks the way we do. It’s weird at first, but so is a sea that has no waves (the Mediterranean)–you get used to it. You enjoy it for what it is. You swim whether there are waves or not.
Some say you may be at risk of compromising truth or faith to fit in with the culture. I agree, compromising truth is wrong. Way wrong! Out here, under the Spanish sky we are simply trying to be imitators of Paul and Christ. As Arianna would say, “Jesus was the greatest cross-cultural worker.” He spoke the language, he met the people where they were. He didn’t stop at the actions of the individual’s past, he wasn’t the first one to throw the stone. In fact he was the one who created the truest definition of grace.
We take our light into the night here, whether it be dark noon (midnight)or 4:30am. We can invite God to be with us on a dance floor–and I have. If art is an expression of creativity, and creativity is the natural result of spirituality, then I can literally be spiritual in all the art I make while connected to the spirit.
That means that wherever we are, even if in a muggy dance club pounding Michael Jackson music, God can be there.
“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?”
-David, a man after Gods own heart.
David wrote this Psalm about such a topic.
1O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. 2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. 3Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. 4For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. 5Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. 7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. 9If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. 11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. 12Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
It’s amazing at what you can be thankful for when your dancing. The ability to move alone is a blessing.
I want to keep the Spirit alive… so, what do I do? After further question and investigation I found that there is a reason they stay out so late. The answer… Siesta! The Spanish take a siesta after they go home to their families for lunch. What a blessing! to go home to your family, have lunch, catch a cat nap at the hottest part of the day, and then go back to work in the cooler part of the evening is awesome. But wait, now after work, we need a little time to cut loose, and hey, we just had a nap, so we are still pretty charged. Let’s go out, have some tapas, and perhaps dance. It’s their way of life, like coming home to dinner and perhaps an episode of Lost. It’s the culture.
Jesus drank wine with meals as they do here. He sat and ate with people that, through the eyes of man, he should not have been sitting with. But he did. He made contact with the untouchables and eat meals with the ungodly. He made them feel like they were accepted. Imagine how you would feel known as detestable, but found at a dinner table with the creator of the universe. From the eyes of man, looking from the outside it looked much different. In the book of Matthew it says, “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” They called Jesus a winebibber and a glutton because of what they thought their eyes were seeing.
“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding…”
As followers of Christ, we should eat and drink with the untouchables like Christ did, and pray for those brothers and sisters who do the same. Perhaps some of us know what its like to be an untouchable, or detestable. A place at the table can change a life forever.
My hope is for all who read this to be rich in grace toward others as Christ is rich in grace toward you.