During our team’s culture and language learning days, we often shared patterns we were seeing in the worldview of the people. In one such conversation, we began to chat about the custom among the Nahuatl of holding grudges.
The slightest offense can lead to hard feelings that in turn compels one person to refuse to greet the other (a great insult culturally). And even if the first person didn’t realize they had erred, the second person not greeting them might cause them offense and…well, fast forward 15 years to people with deep-seated misunderstandings and hurts with no apparent way out.
We reasoned that if we ever witnessed one offended party approach another to work out their problems, we would recognize that as a miracle only the Holy Spirit could pull off.
A few weeks ago, Queen went over to A’s house to get some beads for a project she was working on. In the course of conversation, A said something to Queen that didn’t sit well with her. Was A. making fun of her? Did she mean her comment seriously? Was she, in fact, trying to warn her about what others in the community were saying about her? In typical Nahuatl fashion, Queen was offended and confused, but said nothing.
Shortly after, during a translation session with my coworker Rachel, Queen confessed how painful the moment had been. She was convinced, however, that the Lord wanted her to continue to get along with her sister in Christ. She said, “I will continue to greet her. I will shake her hand at church because God wants us to be unified, but I will no longer trust her and I will not be comfortable going to her house.”
As the morning of translation continued, the subject came up again. “What do you see here about how God wants his children to get along?” Rachel asked. “No,” Queen said, “it’s not right for me to only greet her. We need to be thinking the same. We need solve our problems. I guess I’m going to need to go talk to her.”
Rachel was amazed at how casually she mentioned something so foreign to her culture, something so difficult to do in any part of the world, but without precedence in our little hamlet. “Would you want me to accompany you?” Rachel asked her. “No,” she answered, “I can do this.”
Queen and A have worked their problems out. They greet each other. They have free conversation in the group, sharing personal details that show the trust they have in each other. They are sisters and friends and have obeyed the Holy Spirit and allowed him to do a miracle.
Our cultural roots are strong, but when we become new creatures, we begin learning a set of norms that correspond to our new citizenship and are more powerful than the patterns of the past. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.