'Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honourable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation' 1 Peter 2:11-12
'You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier' 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Several years ago, I read 'Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds' by Ruth van Reken and David Pollock. It was on a friend's bookshelf; at that time I had no children and no particular reason to read it other than that I had heard this phrase 'third culture kids' bandied about quite a lot. Sometimes it was used to describe a challenge, sometimes as what seemed to me to be an excuse, but most often just as a statement of fact, a kind of identity. A 'third culture kid' is a child who has accompanied their parents into another culture which is not their passport nation (often as a result of a parent's career choice - either secular or a spiritual calling). A 'cross cultural kid' is similar, but has lived in many different cultural environments. If you are raising a family between cultures, I would recommend reading the book - quite a lot made sense and it has given me some things to watch out for and potential solutions which might be of help. (I should re-read it now, with a growing family and another international move coming up).
The chapter that stuck in my mind at the time related to the process of leaving - of how often, during the final few months in a place, you start to disentangle yourself from relationships and activities, and almost start to psychologically 'leave' ahead of the physical move. I found that interesting because I had been aware of those behaviours in both my friends and in others. I think as a family we are starting to do that now - there will be an interesting conference, or a home educators meet-up in the autumn, but we know we won't be here. We are watching the apple and cherry trees blossom, and remembering some fantastic foraging last autumn; but by autumn we will be near the equator and the seasonal oranges and browns, crisp cold autumn mornings and fresh apple and blackberry crumble will not be our experience this year.
Whilst I think it is good to be aware of the processes involved in moving between cultures (particularly the ways in which we can help our children through transition), I think it is also important to remember that as a Christian, this world is not our home. A friend sent me a book, 'Inside Out: True Change is Possible' by Larry Crabb, since she had found it deeply challenging. I read part of it on the plane yesterday. One of his key arguments is that modern Christianity often sells the gospel short by suggesting that we can know relief from life's problems in the here and now, as well as looking forward to a glorious eternity. This is NOT what the Bible teaches. For example:
Jesus Himself said, 'These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you WILL have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' John 16:33 (Emphasis mine)
The Apostle Paul described it thus: 'Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory' 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
I believe a lie that we are often sold as Christians is that we should somehow be looking for peace, security and comfort in this world. If we do not find it, or if we find it temporarily only to then move on again, we may be tempted to feel that something is wrong with us. Our proposed move is to a city in east Africa which is densely populated, has a traffic problem, and where there are not the wide open spaces which one might associate with Africa, particularly an African childhood. In contrast to where we lived previously for four years, where we had a large garden with abundant fruit trees, where we grew many vegetables and kept goats and chickens, we may find ourselves with little outdoor space. When I have been explaining this, and other differences, to friends, I find I am often asked, 'Why are you going there then?' Why are we going somewhere that we do not find beautiful, where we are not sure our children will have the idyllic childhood that probably doesn't exist anyway, but which may be associated with missionary life? I find it particularly difficult when I am asked this question by Christians, because it seems to miss the point entirely.
We are moving here because we are confident that this is where God wants our family to be over the next few years. Quoting the Apostle Paul again, 'I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' Philippians 4: 11-13
And again, 'And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work' 2 Corinthians 9:8
God is able to provide everything we need. We trust God with all areas of our lives. We trust Him with our children. We trust that He will enable us to serve Him as a family wherever we are, whatever culture we are in. Our highest aim is not for comfort and peace here and now, but for a life that gives honour to God and looks forward to the far greater hope of heaven.