Third Culture Kid

Several weeks ago on a Saturday I retreated with a friend of mine to one of her favorite places, a Catholic community deep in the rural farmland of southern Indiana. I cried and wrestled with my own unfolding and confusing and frustrating journey as I sat in a smoky Latin mass surrounded by those who belonged there, filing forward to cross my Protestant arms over my chest while others received the sacrament.

Then I came home to join my husband in the chaos of caring for a toddler who doesn’t belong to us, whose severe eczema was bleeding in places. We occasionally join hands with an organization called Safe Families for Children. It’s predominantly made up of conservative evangelical upper-middle-class white Americans. I’d like to say, as a sometimes-card-carrying member of this demographic, that these folks drive me crazy.

Less than 24 hours after the rural Latin mass, I dropped my children off for their Sunday school classes at our current place of worship–a progressive, liberal congregation of the ELCA. With the one-year-old in my care for the morning, I had to forego my quiet hour of reading and writing, opting for a neighborhood walk with the stroller. I listened to the birds, appreciating the sunshine and the crisp fresh air and the headspace.

I was thinking about a friend’s suggestion that I’m a Third Culture Kid. A couple days earlier as we lifted weights together at the gym, she’d remarked that I’m good at making anyone and everyone feel at home, but that I don’t seem to ever feel at home anywhere myself. Her perception of me resonated. I don’t feel that I belong in any of these three places despite the fact that I exist in them day in and day out. I don’t belong in them, but I understand them.

The perspective of the modestly-dressed, dour-faced women chanting Hail Marys makes sense to me. Their shrine for the unborn children murdered by abortion makes sense to me. The perspective of the conservative Protestants concerned with their best understanding of historic, orthodox Christian theology makes sense to me. Their determination to broaden their “pro-life” politics, putting their money where their mouth is, being tangible hands and feet of Jesus makes sense to me. The perspective of the progressive liberal Protestants with their wide-open arms and their sociologically-driven concept of religion makes sense to me. Their shape-shifting, contextual theology makes sense to me.

Yes, I feel like a Third Culture Kid. Nowhere feels comfortable, but all of it makes sense to me. And while I love being able to understand and appreciate so many different perspectives, the hard part is that I’m tired almost all the time. It’s exhausting to live without a firm grasp on home.

As I reflect on all this, I have two emerging thoughts I want to explore. First, how do I take care of this Third Culture Kid? How do I stay healthy? How do I find rest? How do I keep my head in the game? Second, how do I be myself? How do I find the courage to be honest about who I am? How do I tell the Safe Families crowd that I’m becoming Catholic? How do I tell the Catholics that joining them is going to be the greatest loss I ever accrue? How do I tell the progressive liberals that I believe gender is binary, even though I applaud their approach to the surrounding issues, even though I’ve learned so much from them about the dignity of humanity and the difficulty of it all?

I have very little by way of answers to all of this, except a suspicion that the answers to the first set of questions are probably found in the second set. This, and another thing, given to me this week by a wise pastor: Spiritual maturity is coming to a place where your immutable belovedness is a filter that protects you from everything. Anything anyone says is only an opportunity to listen to who they are. It can’t hurt you: you are immutably beloved.

This is one more thing Jesus knew when he said “Come to me all of you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

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