Or is it heading home? You’re going somewhere, at least, and it’s not with your family. You’re packing up and moving out–a phenomenon you’re used to, but not without your mom to pack, your siblings to help entertain, and your dad to plan the route.
This time, it’s just you.
Exciting? Nerve-wracking? Scary? An awesome adventure?
Here’s the thing: even though we’re both MK’s and there are some things we just totally get about each other, no explanation needed, we’re also two different people with two different lives behind–and ahead of–us. My experience won’t be identical to yours. We won’t feel the same way about all things; my struggles may not be yours and your victories may not be mine.
But, we are both MK’s. And I have done something similar to what you’re about to do. So maybe reading about some of my experiences will help you know what to expect and how to deal with what may come your way. Or you may have your own insights or questions to share. Please feel free to utilize the comment box! 🙂
In thinking through what I learned as a transitioning MK and what I want to share, I realized the important things were not the stressful situations of how to get a driver’s license without a home address or how to apply for a school loan without a driver’s license. The important lessons were the mindset and attitude adjustments God had to do on me. I hope to share practical tips in a future post, but I first want to get to the heart of what helped me through.
If you’re like me, then you’re pretty good at being “The Missionary Kid.” You know your role in churches: smile, shake hands, answer questions about continents and languages and currency without making people feel dumb. Quote John 3:16 in Swahili or Arabic or Spanish or whatever language you speak. Don’t doze as you dad preaches the same message for the umpteenth time. Unpack and repack the display box stuff. Thank the pastor and host for the lodgings and meal. At home, you’re probably expected to be diligent in your schoolwork and help care for your siblings and complete household chores. On the field, you teach children’s church, help in the nursery, pass out tracts, and get to know the kids in the neighborhood. In airports? You know what lines to get in, how many carry-ons you can take and how full they can be, when to hand the attendant your passport and when to hand him your boarding pass, and you have your shoes ready to come off, liquids in a baggy, and laptop out before it’s even your turn at security. You know your life, and it’s comfortable. You might be outgrowing it a bit, you may be ready to get out, but you’re good at it.
That’s about to change.
College is new. Maybe you feel like you can tackle it all, maybe you feel like a fish out of water. Either way, let me tell you a secret: you are a fish out of water. Well, not completely. You’re more like Dory, still in the ocean but in an unfamiliar part. Introducing yourself to people isn’t new–name, major, and interesting fact is easy: you grew up in a foreign country. But what about that class that doesn’t ask for an interesting fact? Suddenly, you’re just a name and major like everyone else. “MK” didn’t factor into your self-introduction at all.
But that’s ok. You find your MK friends and talk “third culture kid-ese” over dinner, maybe do a little eye-rolling at American culture or fashion. Conversation may revolve around which airlines are your favorites and which definitely aren’t, which countries were the best to visit, crazy travel adventures, and other friendly one-upping to prove who’s the most MKest MK at your table. Balm for the soul.
You’ll make other friends, too. You’ll get into your classes and really enjoy some of the stuff you’re learning. As time goes on, you’ll start talking the jargon of your major with classmates and teachers, you’ll pick up on college inside jokes, and you’ll swap stories about your favorite professors. Your wardrobe will change slightly, you’ll learn which campus routes to take to beat the crowds, and life will begin to become comfortable again.
And for me, that’s when I became uncomfortable. I realized that I was changing. I was feeling at home in a place that wasn’t home. Yes, that’s supposed to be a good thing, but if my not-home was becoming home, then I must be becoming not-me, or a least a new-me. Who was I, anyway? And was I changing so much I wouldn’t fit in to my old home anymore?
My “identity crisis” wasn’t long or excruciating, but it was real and impactful: it was 8 years ago that I had the following thought conversation, yet I still remember it to this day. I pray God’s answer to my question, “Who am I?” is helpful to you, as well, even if you’re not going through exactly what I did.
Here’s the reasoning that went on:
“I’m beginning to lose my MK terminology. I don’t think exactly like an MK anymore. What if I lose my MK-ness?”
“What if you do? If you’re where God wants you and adapting to the culture He has put you in, then He’ll make sure you have just what you need to minister to the people around you. If that means losing your MK-ness, isn’t it worth it to be used by God?”
“I suppose. But who am I if I’m not an MK?”
“Yes, but what does that mean? If someone asked, ‘Who is she?’ how should that question be answered?”
“You’re a college student, an education major.”
“But I’ll graduate, and then I won’t be a student anymore.”
“You’re a teacher, then, an educator.”
“But what if I only have that job for a little while? I may not always be a teacher.
“In fact, I have no idea what direction my life will take. How can I prepare for life if I don’t know what I’m preparing for? Who I am needs to be based on something deeper than my career or activities; it needs to be something essential to my being.”
“You are a child of God.”
“I am, aren’t I?”
“You are. And that defines your whole life. Experiences and jobs will come and go, but the goal of all of them is to help you know God better and make Him known. Make that the focus of your life (Phil. 3:7-17), and all the other pieces will fall in place as God directs your steps.”
That truth brought such a peace then and continues to comfort and guide me even now. Not only does it offer stability in times of change, it gives me the freedom to let go, to take up, to make a change, to plug away, because I have the assurance that however my activities change and however my experiences affect me, I am and always will be God’s child. Any changes He brings only further, not hinder, His purpose for my life, so if I embrace His purpose and make it my own, I can rest assured that my way will be perfect, too (Psalm 18:30-35, 138:8).
So take heart. Find your identity in Christ, and you will be free to enjoy and use this life with all its variety of experiences and people. Keep learning, growing, and adapting, and God will use you for His glory even now.
(Oh, and, just so you know, you’ll never lose your MK-ness. 😉 But more on that in a later post, I hope!)