When my children were small and growing up with us in the capital of a Middle-Eastern city, from time to time I encountered pangs of regret that they were missing out on the experiences of my childhood: pets, freedom to roam outdoors, close proximity to nature, and nights spent camping in the backyard.
However, there were so many good things in their lives; a large number of MK friends, vacations on the Mediterranean Sea, and life in a country rich in culture, history, and food seemed to make up for that loss. In their high-school years, the blessings included a great education in boarding school, with trips to Paris and Rome and mentors who took special interest in them, taking pains to encourage them in their talents and spiritual lives. In fact, there were times that I felt a disparity between the lives of “privilege” that our children were living in comparison to their peers in our home country.
However, our children’s transition to the “homeland”—the United States of America—hit hard. The loss of the community in which they had flourished all their lives left my children feeling bereft of support, rather like lone ships tossed on unfriendly seas. They felt that they belonged to no one in the United States and were often unwilling to ask others for help. It was even difficult for them to feel natural ties to relatives who had loved them from afar for so long. My pleas to God during this time often went something like this: Lord, this child is an orphan. You said you care for the orphans. You’ve got to help us out here, God!
During and following their years of college, our children have gradually found a place in American society and the church. Nevertheless, from time to time the old fears, with their lurking despair, again pop up. A month ago our daughter was asked by her gracious landlord to move from the house she has been renting, based on a very legitimate need in his family. Again the realization hits us all that if we were living in the US, this would not cause a big problem. Our daughter could return home and live with us while making the transition from graduate school to the job market. Instead, she is faced with moving to a small bedroom in the home of a family she does not know and saying goodbye to a roommate she loves, all while continuing to look for work in her field.
The ache in my heart for her led to a repeat of former pleas: Why, Lord? Why can’t You make this easier on her? Why does she have to be dealing with these challenges due to the fact that we are serving You? If we can’t be there for her, why can’t You show that You are there for her by opening up a job and a great housing situation?
My demands are based on a belief that my children should not have to suffer as a result of the call that my husband and I answered. My wish is that God would protect my daughter from the difficulties that are a result of our living overseas, that He would give her a home and a life of security and rest, since we are not able to do so.
I would love to be in control of creating my daughter’s story. I would love to be able to lay out a wonderful life for her, but God has a better story that He is creating through these difficulties. The truth is that God has framed each of my children’s circumstances for His better purposes. These circumstances include their unique childhoods as MKs and the transitions, loss, and challenges of Third-Culture-Kid young adulthood. The God who created these dear ones knows each one of them intimately. He has designed the ups and downs of their lives so that they might grow to trust Him more than they trust their parents or their community. The very thing I claim to desire most—my child’s growth in Christ—is brought about by the very struggles I would naturally wish to write out of my child’s story.
At the same time, our Savior’s love is not far from our three children, whom we now love from a distance. He does not allow hardship into my child’s life in some loveless vacuum. The message that I want to share with new believers from a Muslim background includes truth that applies to my struggling daughter: Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32). God’s love for His people is not limited to providing for their salvation. Rather, it is a living part of their daily lives. Nothing will separate my child from the love of God. So I have a choice in this situation: to plead with God that He carry out the story of ease I want for my daughter, or to yield in trust to His greater story meant for her growth and knowledge of His love at a deeper level.
Question to consider: How do you practically “yield in trust to His greater story” for your children?