Hidden Fault Lines

Hidden Fault Lines

The questions Just. Never. Stop.  

From my home culture: You have a woman who cooks and cleans for you? Lucky! So, what do you do all day? Any converts yet? Why don’t you take more pictures over there? Have you learned the language yet? Why are you still over there? Don’t you know people need help here too? How’s your trip going? When are you coming home? 

From my host culture: Why don’t you have children? Your husband might leave you! You don’t know how to cook ugali? Your husband won’t have strength! Do you know how to make a fire? Do you know there’s white dirt in your hair? Why don’t you wash your hair with soap and hot water? Why do you whites only wear shirts with one color? So boring!

Shame started to creep in when I didn’t have the answers, or when I feared that the answers that I did have would be judged. I just could not measure up to what my home culture expects of the perfect cross-cultural worker, and I was nowhere near what my host culture thinks a woman should be to her husband. 

In my training, they taught us that when you leave “A” culture to live in “B” culture, overtime you develop your own “C” culture. You will never truly fit in again with either “A” or “B” culture. At orientation, I marveled at how God would make something new out of me. Then after a while on the field, I wondered if I could bear to live the rest of my life as an outsider. 

I confessed my hidden fears to my husband. Surely as another “C” culture person, he would understand. And he tried, yes, he surely tried. He held me, he listened, he prayed with and for me. I knew I was so blessed to have this wonderful partner, but sometimes I still felt alone with struggles unique to my gender and in places in my heart reserved for my Savior.

Who do you say that I am, Lord? 
Silence. 
Father, I have all these unanswered questions, these doubts and fears. Where are you? 
Silence. 

At first when my questions were met with silence, I thought that maybe staying busy was the answer. If I was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about the questions, then they wouldn’t affect me. Right? And perhaps along the way, I would do something good and be affirmed for who I am rather than defined by who I am not. 

That flurry of action fueled by perfectionism burned out after a few weeks. I reached the point of exhaustion where I felt like one more question would tip me over the edge. My husband’s simplest requests were met with stony silence. I had finally reached the end of myself.

Be still and know that I am God. 
Yeah wouldn’t that be nice to have some stillness? Maybe someday. 
Be still and know that I am God. 
Now? 

The first time I tried being still, I set a timer for five minutes and asked God to speak to me. In the quiet, he reminded me that I am not alone. I ended the session in tears. So the next day, again, I sat in silence for five minutes. God called me his beloved. And day by day, I began to carve out time to sit and listen. Over time the voice of reassurance became louder than the questions swirling around me. 

For the past few months, I’ve continued this practice of sitting in silence before God at the start of each day. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking those moments of stillness. But God assures me that I have chosen the better thing (Luke 10:42).  And other days, it seems like everyone waits until the very moment that I sit down to attack me with problems. In fact, this very morning, just as I began to enter into silence, my husband yelled that the dog was bleeding! 

Yet again and again I return to listen to God in the silence. Before God I no longer feel like I have anything to hide. He doesn’t care if I measure up as a perfect east African housewife and he doesn’t have a cross-cultural worker grading sheet. He understands my limitations and accepts me as His beloved child. In his gaze I am fully known and completely loved. With Hagar, I can praise him as the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13).

The questions still come as friends from both “A” and “B” cultures just don’t quite get my “C” culture quirks. Yet I am no longer so fearful of being misunderstood or worried to be found wanting. The God of the Universe meets me each day in the silence. That is good enough for me!

 Does being a “C” culture person ever make you want to run and hide? Have you found ways to rest in the Lord‘s presence to give you strength to face another day of feeling misunderstood? 

34 Comments

  1. Anne April 9, 2020

    Yes! This is so right on. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 9, 2020

      You’re welcome! I’m glad it resonated with you. Thank you for commenting!

  2. Rebecca Katharine April 9, 2020

    YES! These sentiments ring so true for me as someone who holds the identities of bi-racial, multi-ethnic/cultural/lingual, third culture kid, 1.5 generation immigrant, 1.5 international student, cross-cultural worker, translator, and bridge-builder. I felt so alone for an extended period (nearly 20 years) of wandering in the wilderness of culture shock and grief before the Lord saved me.

    Now He continues to open my eyes to other communities of people who share our “C” culture identity and struggles. It’s actually a lot more than we would initially expect. For example, the third culture kid community is children of parents in the military, mission-field, diplomatic service, and scientific research. That’s a lot of people! Also, I recently got to know a sister in Christ whose parents divorced when she was young and she grew up in the Church where that was considered shameful; my heart went out to her for feeling so much guilt and shame and only recently in her adult life coming to know the Lord’s peace and joy. Many people share our emotional struggles; many more than I could have ever imagined.

    Praise Jesus for softening our hearts and opening our ears to one another.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. I’m so glad God has brought you to a place of peace as a “C” culture person. Thank you for the reminder that there are so many people who feel the struggle of living between cultures.

  3. Kathryn April 10, 2020

    This is so beautifully put and timely for me. Thank you!

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      I’m so glad the message was timely for you. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. Amy McAdams April 10, 2020

    This made me think about the fact that I don’t really let myself be a “c”. I revert to mostly “a” at home, and try hard to be a “b” in our host culture. Of course I can never be an “a” again, so I feel weird and awkward sometimes. And I never will be a “b” no matter how hard I try……I am different and always will be. I am going to try to come to grips with embracing my “c”-ness and just representing Christ more and more. After all, He was also in this position, and did it perfectly.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      I love the encouragement to embrace our “c”-ness! I’ll remind myself of that the next time I’m trying to measure myself against expectations from culture “a” or “b”. Ha I never realized that the “c” could stand for Christ. Thanks!

  5. Loredana Rodriguez April 10, 2020

    Thanks for sharing your heart .. I am single but I can see that we have the same questions , except I have one more from both cultures ….why are you still single ? 😉 God has gave me peace and strength to these questions. But is hard sometimes, I am here to serve God and glorify his name…and He is with me and with you. Blessings

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      Praise God for giving you the peace and strength to face the questions! I agree it is so hard sometimes. May God continue to lead and guide you.

  6. kathleen m hardy April 10, 2020

    Alyson

    Its good to hear that I am not the only one who has struggled in my head about perfection or with what I am not rather that who I am. Silence is definitely one of the keys. Quieting my mind and ridding myself of all those tapes and replacing with words such as The Lord is my Shepard I shall not want. Or just being present in the moment. I watch the birds outside my window in my time of silence.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. You are living in the moment and being where you are called to be.

    Love,

    Kathleen

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      Thank you for your encouraging comment! It’s always a blessing to find we are not alone in our struggles. I love watching the birds too. They have a lot to teach us about being in the here and now!

  7. Heather April 10, 2020

    Your post resonated with me until the point where you sat in silence and God answered. We were on the field seven years and I felt abandoned by God and my husband while he struggled to understand me and just kept on working without me. A year back in the States and I’m still struggling to hear. What don’t I get to be shepherded? is one of my questions that swirls.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      Thank you so much for this honest and heartfelt comment. It was truly brave of you to be vulnerable and real in this way. It would’ve been so much easier just to scoff and close the tab. I’m glad you didn’t! I hope that this article didn’t make faith seem easy or formulaic. That was never my intent. I don’t know anyone whose faith journey has been without dry, desert times- mine included. I‘m so sorry your desert has lingered on so long. I applaud your courage to keep wrestling with the questions, and I beg for God to provide answers that bring you peace.

    2. Liji April 11, 2020

      “He understands my limitations and accepts me as His beloved child. In his gaze I am fully known and completely loved”- love your writing Aly ! You point out the relevance of our identity in Christ.

      1. Alyson Rockhold April 14, 2020

        Thank you Liji! I’m so grateful every time God reminds me that because of Jesus I don’t have to earn my salvation or do something special to qualify for His love!

  8. Jaclyn April 10, 2020

    You have such an amazing way with words. Thank you for sharing your heart! The need to be still is such a struggle. Thank you for the encouragement to enter into that practice.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      Thank you for being one of the main people who encouraged me to share my writing more broadly! God used you to push me in this direction, and I am so grateful!

  9. Chad April 10, 2020

    I liked the ending: “The God of the Universe meets me each day in the silence. That is good enough for me!”

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      Thanks! My husband helped me word that line 🙂 I’ll pass on the compliment!

  10. Christy April 10, 2020

    I loved reading your heart and feel like I understand you so much better. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 10, 2020

      I told my sister once that I don’t like to share my writing because it makes me feel too vulnerable. So it really means a lot that you liked learning more about me through my writing. Thank you for your comment and encouragement!

  11. Amanda April 10, 2020

    Love reading and hearing from your beautiful heart! Your words are an encouragement. Keep sharing! ❤️

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 11, 2020

      Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it, and I’m grateful for your kind comment.

  12. George Vinton April 10, 2020

    Dearest Alyson,
    I am certain that God is telling you “You are beautiful both inside and out. Outside because I created you. Inside because I see the righteousness of my son Jesus.”

    As an MK, I have often struggled with questions such as “why did you not become a missionary like your Dad? Or even worse, when I did something wrong putting a guilt trip on me and all I can answer is as a Christian, I am not perfect (yet), but I am forgiven. I feel for PKs that encounter the same. All I can say is to trust and rely on HIM. HE will sustain you and guide you. He will lead you and Brian. Just try not to get ahead of His guidance. Sometimes that is very hard to do and we often do not understand BUT it is the way that brings His PEACE and JOY.

    We love you both…….

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 11, 2020

      I’m so grateful for your heartfelt and insightful comment. Thank you for sharing the MK and PK perspective. I so appreciate your words of wisdom to trust and rely on HIM. Your last few sentences really hit home for us here as we wait in limbo on God‘s guidance. Thank you for loving, supporting and encouraging us so much!

  13. Scot Stolz April 10, 2020

    Great words of wisdom, here, Alyson! I know the Lord will use this to minister to many people serving. Thanks for writing it.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 11, 2020

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. Your encouragement means a lot to me!

  14. Lucy Amato April 11, 2020

    I enjoy reading your writings. Your thoughts always give me things to think about & sometimes challenge me in my journey. Take care of yourself and your hubby!
    Love…….

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 14, 2020

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m grateful for your encouragement. Love to you and yours!

  15. Jeanne Van Tiem April 12, 2020

    “I just could not measure up . . .” Oh, how many years those words consumed my thoughts. The same record played, over and over and over again. Those words can still creep in even after I’ve had a long season of joy and peace.
    Like you, I have found my way, or should I say God’s way, to quiet my mind so that He can speak to me. Sometimes, it’s through His word, sometimes it’s through Christian music, and other times, it’s through other people’s written word. But it starts with me: I, like you, must welcome the silence before i can receive what He wanted to give me all along.
    Bless you for sharing and thus encouraging others to be vulnerable, as well.

    1. Alyson Rockhold April 14, 2020

      Thank you so much sharing from your heart! I’m grateful for a God who leads us beyond those feelings of self-doubt and fear to a place of peace and acceptance in Him. I really appreciate how you point out that there are so many different ways to hear from God: scripture, music, silence or the words of others. May God bless you too!

    2. Alyson Rockhold April 14, 2020

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! I go in and out of seasons of listening well to God too. One of my fears of sharing this article is that I would look back in a few months and realize that I had stopped this practice. Thank goodness for God’s grace to cover all of our inadequacies!

  16. Lynda April 13, 2020

    Thank you for sharing your story Alyson!! It was eye opening to see your own struggle with questions that always come when least prepared. I also enjoyed the sitting with silence since i struggle myself with this. You have raised my awareness of how little time i spend in silence and with God. Hopefully that can change for as well!

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