“The thought of living in America kind of scares me. Like that’s America… That’s where I get laughed at if I do something culturally wrong. That’s where people grow complacent about missions. That’s where people complain about things that others in the world will never have. That’s where I don’t fit in. That’s where I’ll have culture shock. That’s where I’ll never feel comfortable.”
One of my dear MK cousins texted this to me the other day. I couldn’t have said these words better myself. This is a struggle I have had for so long. I never wanted to live in America, because I felt like I didn’t ‘fit in’ anywhere. I felt like an outsider.
I remember crying one night when I was fifteen. After a long day at school I laid in bed and wrote the following in my journal:
“If you could hear the things I do
You would understand
If you had walked where I did
And felt the hurt in my heart
The tears over silly things
You would understand
You would understand my awkwardness.
I wish I could show you what it is like
to live in two places at once.”
MKs, you know where I’m coming from. I used to get worked up and bitter when I spent time around Americans who were thankless and wasteful. I would fight loneliness because I felt like no one understood.
No one seemed to think ‘outside the box’ and realize that I had lived in a whole different world most of my life. They didn’t understand that I was a kid who would lay awake at night terrified because I felt the presence of demons. They didn’t understand that I had played with children who were AIDs victims. Or that at age twelve I was offered alcohol at parties where even my eight -year old friends were getting drunk.
I wanted to tell people my stories in order to explain why I acted the way I did. They just saw me as a missionary kid who wore funky clothes and stood up there awkward and quiet by the missionary display tables. Or maybe they approached me thanking me for the ‘missionary’ things I did, as if they thought I was someone super spiritual. People in America didn’t ‘get’ me.
I was always so tired of the immaturity around me. I could care less about a TV show. I couldn’t understand pop culture or the latest styles. I hated going to Starbucks because a drink cost the same amount as a day’s wage for my friends at the garment factories. I would get angry when I heard any American complain about government corruption. (MKs in any third-world country can understand why…)
The frustrations about America developed into something more, until at age 17 I was fed up with everyone and wrote this in my journal: “It feels as though I am socially awkward. I am the outsider. I don’t belong anywhere.”
I guess that’s when things started to change, because this thought came out next: “But Christ felt like an outsider too, did He not?”
So often I fall into pity parties thinking ‘no one understands me, because I’m a missionary kid’, but I am wrong. Jesus understands me. He understands me on a level so much deeper than anyone else. On a much (MUCH) bigger level, Jesus was misunderstood too. I wonder how often He must have felt socially awkward or ‘weird’. But here’s what amazes me: Jesus chose to leave a place where He did ‘fit in’. And He chose to leave that place because of us. I guess you could say He chose to be misunderstood by everyone in order to understand us.
Jesus ‘gets’ us even more than we can understand ourselves. So often I’ve had to run to Hebrews 4:15 that says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
I wish I had answers for how to ‘fit in’, or how to not get angry at ‘Americans’. I don’t. I still struggle with bitterness. In college I had someone say to me, “You’re so weird and awkward, Abby… it must just be because you are an MK.” That stung. I just wanted to shoot back, “Well, can you speak two languages? Have you ever tried using a second language to bargain for a live chicken in the market?” (That’s not an easy thing to do by the way, just in case you were wondering…)
But, that’s not the way to respond.
I can find comfort from the fact that Jesus understands me, even if I am a weird and awkward missionary kid. He knows what it feels like to not belong anywhere. Unlike me, though, Jesus lived a perfect life. He never was bitter or proud.
All I can say is guys, let’s run to Jesus. He’s waiting for us to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He cares about us. He wants to help us. He’s waiting for us to come, and believe it or not, He wants to sympathize with His children (even the socially awkward ones).