Day 26: My Testimony: Which Bubble Do I Fill?
I felt the red flush of embarrassment rise up my neck and fill my face with splotchy crimson blots.
“Not a porch, stupid. A Porsche! Don’t you know anything?” She cocked her head to one side, her strawberry blonde hair falling to the side as she wrinkled her freckled nose in distaste.
I still had no idea what she was talking about. She had said that her father had gotten a porch. Finally seeing an opening with which I could participate, I stated that we had a front and back porch and the back one even had a porch swing.
The clan of girls turned hawklike eyes on me and then erupted in laughter. I stood paralyzed. I mumbled something about not hearing correctly and retreated back to the classroom with their cackles echoing in my wake.
When the recess bell rang and the rest of the class filtered in and took their seats, I sat head tall, face resolved and steely. I didn’t fit. I knew I didn’t. I had tried time and again and failed.
I resolved then that I wouldn’t try. The callous had already began to form around my wounded third grade heart.
And over the years that callous had thickened, hardening with bitterness, with envy, with each exclusion. Each attempt at being included only dug the wound down deeper and the final result was an impenitent heart.
I came to hate everything that I saw in American culture. I hated the rich Christians I saw, the consumerism, the vanity.
Because I didn’t fit. I am a third culture kid.
The communal tables and warm fires that burned insulating us all from the frigid air of the Netherlands shaped me as did the dusty red mud floors of our dung insulated hut in Nepal. I was taught by the culture that I was submersed in more than the culture that I came from. The words and conversations that abounded around me mentored my little mind. On mercy, on ministry, on community, on justice, on God’s face in it all, I sat at the feet of my parents and others in our community and soaked in the beauty of doing life together. I fit.
At the time we came back from Nepal and reentered the states, I was 5. Barely old enough to remember. And yet, I do. Because so much of that forming was in the very fabric of who our family was, both abroad and on native soil.
The conversations that prodded us to dig deeper, to live fuller, to look harder. The questioning of culture and church and meaning. There was no word for what we were back then. There were no books on reëntry into a culture so diverse from where we had lived.
There were no terms for kids like me. At least none that I had ever heard of.
Kids who could no longer relate fully to their passport country but weren’t native to their foreign culture either. Kids who went back to Hawaii where they were born but didn’t fit with the locals. Kids who looked part Asian but couldn’t speak Korean or Japanese. Kids who were part Caucasian but hesitated when scribbling the little bubble in on ethnicity questions, and sat stumped when they could only choose one. Kids who ate kimchi but embarrassed easily and turned up their noses when their friends were over.
A girl who flipped through fashion magazines as a teen wishing for large hooded eyelids like Cindy Crawford, but never saw anyone who looked like her. A girl whose name was never on any of those personalized key chains or mugs or stickers and who secretly wished her name was Jennifer or Melissa because there were always plenty of those.
Always straddling worlds and cultures and identity and hating anyone or anything that made me have to choose while simultaneously wishing to be just like everyone else.
Kids who didn’t fit who belonged to parents who didn’t fit. And the culture of the American church hardened us all even more. For as the Puritans used to say, “The same sun that hardens the clay, melts the ice.” We were not malleable in God’s hands, and that rigidity and hardening cracked and broke us in the worst of ways.