I'm so excited about today's missions post! This is part 2 of Third Culture Kids and the Gospel by Susan Chapman Bixby. If you missed last week's explanation and introduction, you'll want to read it here.
Third Culture Kids
Last week I presented you with three common struggles that Third Culture Kids (TCKs) face—three “basic human needs” that might appear to go unmet at times in the life of a TCK. But today I would like to remind you of the perfect way our sovereign God meets every need we have.
God created man in His own image with, as someone said, a “God-shaped hole” inside of him. The answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is,
Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Every person on the face of the earth has a basic need that can only be fulfilled in Christ Himself. For many, that void is anesthetized by the stability and predictability they normally experience in home and community life.
As I began to formally study this topic, after years of being exposed to it on an informal basis through personal experience, marriage to a TCK, many friendships with TCKs, and a particular interest because I have 3 children who are TCKs, I was struck over and over by one particular idea as I read about the needs and challenges that many TCK’s have.
For every challenge and struggle a Third Culture Kid faces, the Gospel’s essential elements have a specific and complete answer. What every TCK needs most is a clear, personal, biblical understanding and internalization of the Gospel. These points correspond to the three basic human needs we discussed last week.
My identity is found in Christ. “But to all who did receive him . . . he gave the right to be called children of God.” (John 1:12) For every believer, his status as a redeemed child of God should be what primarily defines his identity. For a Third Culture Kid who struggles to define his own identity, the solution is found in Christ alone. In fact, I think TCKs may have an advantage in this area—they have fewer crutches to stand on! If a TCKs core values are determined by Scripture, he will be able to resist Satan’s temptations and clearly define right and wrong. This will also allow him to understand that he is different for a reason. Being different identifies me with Christ when being different is being like Jesus.
My belonging is to a heavenly kingdom. “And the Lord will. . .preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” (2 Tim. 4:18) “Home” is a spiritual place, not just an emotional one. The emotional needs that are normally met by belonging to a place to call home are met in Christ. He is where I belong. The longing for home can be an eternal perspective that we acquire as we understand that this world is not our home. My citizenship and loyalty are in heaven—to God and His glory on this earth.
I can love all men because of Jesus’ example and His love in me. I don’t need to settle yet—I’m a pilgrim. The TCK must come to understand that it’s ok not to feel settled on this earth, because life really is short, and eternity is coming quickly. God says he will wipe away all tears—no more crying, no more pain. What a wonderful truth for a Third Culture Kid who has suffered over and over the pain of separation, rejection, and confusion.
My relationship with God is the most meaningful of all. If God created man to thrive in relationships, it is because first and foremost, He desired to have a relationship with man. Earlier we mentioned the “God-shaped hole” we each carry inside of us. When a Third Culture Kid has experienced all of the unusual, varying, disappointing, suddenly-ending relationships, he can often develop a cynicism about people, and resist deepening his relationships. This can affect his relationship with God, too. He must understand the great love and desire his Father has for him. He is a valuable person for whom Jesus died because He wants to have an intimate relationship with him. This can be life-changing for a TCK who has withdrawn into his shell to protect himself.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with some real advantages that missionary kids (MKs) and other TCKs believe they have for the sake of the Gospel as a result of their experiences. These conclusions are the direct result of surveys filled out by MKs.
- Most MKs have a clearer picture of the reality of the need for the Gospel all around the world. The people on the news program about that far away country are real people with a real need. This is one of the main reasons that many MKs return to the mission field later in life.
- MKs are normally more open-minded and less set-in-their-ways. They can readily acknowledge that there may be multiple legitimate ways to accomplish the same thing. This allows for more flexibility when working with others in ministry.
- Because MKs have often observed people making life work with few material possessions, they are often less materialistic—not just on a personal level, but also on a ministry level. They know from personal experience that one can “do church” with backless wooden benches and a tarp overhead, singing a capella from memory and the Holy Spirit can work just as mightily (or maybe even more so!) as in an air-conditioned, luxurious environment!
Being a Third Culture Kid is a wonderful privilege, and opens many doors to service to our King! But we must be rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ alone!
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