From the very beginning, the moment we say yes to following Jesus across borders and cultural lines, we sacrifice being completely understood.
Despite long hours of language study, deep and amazing friendships with local partners and neighbors, intentional and unintentional cultural lessons, we will never fully be a part of the place that we call home. We might dress like them, have homes like them, and shop in the same places they do, but we cannot completely shed the culture that we come from.
When the time comes to leave that place and return to our passport country, the same can be said as well. While we might be able to slip more easily into patterns and habits and rhythms of a place we once knew, we will always be different. We are marked by places and cultures and people.
This is a gift, but it can be incredibly painful too. We might be laughed at because no matter how hard we try, we can’t quite communicate our thoughts in just the right way. No matter how much we know, we will make a decision on how to parent our children or remain single way past the acceptable age, and this doesn’t make sense to our local friends.
It will be hard to put into words for our friends back home what we have seen and experienced, the ways that place has driven roots way down in our hearts. We might look the same on the outside (although for many of us, we’ll come home with a few more gray hairs, am I right?), but have different views and opinions and theological beliefs then when we left. It can be hard to have to explain that over and over again, and so we might stop trying.
This is one of the sacrifices of Kingdom work.
In Tamie’s story (Chapter 8) in For the Joy, she shared similar thoughts about being a “third culture mum.” She said, “You can’t divest yourself of one world as you move into the other, so we operate in a kind of middle space.”
Have you seen that happen in your own cross-cultural journey? Tamie described how she has mixed the parenting styles of her passport country of Australia with her place of service in Tanzania. Has the place you are working influenced how you parent your children? Have you seen it in other areas of your life?
We started this section with the heart-breaking story of how Julie and her husband lost their little son, Owen. When Colleen said to make sure to have tissues ready for this book, she was right! I appreciated how honestly Julie shared in her story about the waves of grief and the journey she and her husband went on. I love the picture she shared of being cracked, clay pots. She said, “There has also been much joy as we see that God can use cracked, rough pots like us, often in small ways, to share the truth of His gospel. It is a joy to know that in our brokenness, we can point to the light of Jesus glimmering through us.”
I don’t love the fact that I am a weak vessel, a cracked clay pot, but I do know from experience how God’s grace allows His light to shine through the broken places in my life. In the darkest, hardest seasons, I can look back at my utter weakness and see His faithfulness. It becomes more obvious that I can do nothing in my own strength.
Do you have a cracked clay pot story?
Are there other gems you found in the stories from this section? I’d love to hear what you think of this book!
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book:
May 19: Chapters 11-16
May 26: Chapters 17-21
We are so excited to be partnering with William Carey Publishing for this book, and they are offering us a 50% off code for the e-book version of For the Joy! Click on the link HERE and use the code VABOOKCLUB50!
In June we will be reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin! Stay tuned for more details.