The Secret to Living Fear-Free as A TCK

What if they think I’m bragging? What if they think I’m weird? What if they think I’m stupid for not knowing who so-and-so is? What if they don’t understand why I’m struggling? What if they don’t get why moving was so hard?

Have you had any of those thoughts before? They may seem like the thoughts of an average self-conscious teenager, but if you look closer, there is something more going on. These are the thoughts of the anxious TCK.

I’ve been there. I’ve been the awkward girl in the US sitting in the Sunday School room. A couple seats over from the end of the row… But not too close to the middle — that might seem weird. Sometimes I’ll sit there and barely talk with anyone. Everyone there has their friends and their clique — no need to try and interrupt. 

Once in a while, there will be a friendly girl. She’ll ask me where I’m from— the dreaded question. I’ll explain. “I don’t live here,” I’ll say. “I live overseas.” 

“Really?”

There is so much locked up in that word — her presuppositions about me, her expectations, curiosity, or lack of it. I don’t know what is coming exactly — but I’m nervous. 

Why?

Why am I nervous? Why do I care so much what people think about me? Why do TCKs especially struggle with this?

After years of moving, trying to fit into multiple cultures, and living an ever-changing life… the TCK finds themselves in another new place. 

And the fear kicks in.

Why Fear of Man Is Problematic

That fear is wrong and sinful. 

As humans, we were made to love and worship our Creator. He is to be first in our minds, our hearts, and our lives. 

When we worry about what the monocultural new person will ask us or think about us, God isn’t in the first place. 

We are fearing the approval of the created more than the Creator. The Creator’s approval is powerful and everlasting. The created’s opinion might seem powerful — but the approval will sway as easily as a blade of grass… and eventually wither up. 

Wanting approval isn’t wrong. What matters is whose validation you are seeking. 

This is where it gets tricky. 

All their life, TCKs have looked to people’s approval to learn multiple cultures and languages. That’s how they’ve navigated life. It’s taken them a lot longer than most to figure out where they stand in a community and culture because those cultures and communities change a lot for most TCKs. 

But here’s what we have to remember: Although people’s approval might teach you, you cannot let it rule you. Because when you fear their disapproval, you become a slave to their opinions. 

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Proverbs 29:25

Escaping the Handcuffs

Trusting in the attributes of God — who God is — will change your perspective on who you are. Those who are secure in their identity won’t fear others’ opinions… because others’ opinions won’t change who they are. 

My dear TCK friend, if you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to fear

That doesn’t mean you won’t still struggle with fear. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be anxious again. Nor does it mean you won’t feel awkward around people sometimes. It means your chain binding you to that cell wall has been broken, and you are free to walk out. 

Are you struggling to walk out? Here are 3 ways you can fight against the fear of man in your life: 

  1. Focus on who God is. He is:
  • Faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • Loving (1 John 4:8,10,16)
  • Kind (Psalm 116)
  • Eternal (Psalm 90:1-2)
  • Powerful (Psalm 90:11; Psalm 24:8)
  • King (Psalm 24:8)
  • Wise (1 Corinthians 1:25)
  • Just (Ezekiel 18:20-26)

If we have such a wonderful God as our Father, then his opinions and thoughts are precious. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:17

Our identity is anchored in Christ. If God is immovable, then who we are in Him is as well. Focus on that.

2. Remember, you can’t control others’ opinions. They don’t define you. 

(…) in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?  Psalm 56:11 

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Out of my distress, I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.  Psalm 118:5-8

3. Pray that God would take first place in your heart. The higher a place God takes in our hearts, the less important the opinions of others become. 

As I write this, I feel guilty because I have not attained fearlessness. In fact, I am quite often the most fearful and anxious person in the room. But by God’s grace, I will lose fear… day by day.

Lord, please take first place in my life! Please destroy the idols of others’ opinions and take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. Let me take refuge in You. Give me the grace to focus on who You are and the immovability of my identity in You. 


Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

A TCK Interview: God Loves the Sojourner (Luke & Wendy – Part 3)

I had the privilege of doing an hour-long (!) interview with some friends of mine, an ATCK Christian couple: Luke & Wendy. I had so much fun talking to them… listening to their stories about identity, belonging, love and truth… This is the third part of a 3 part series that I will be releasing over several weeks. Here are Part 1 and Part 2. Have fun reading!


Breanne: I think you already answered some of this question in previous parts. But nevertheless, how did your TCK upbringing influence who you are and how you see the world? Luke, would you like to go first?

Luke: Sure. Being a TCK is essential to me because I’m able to see my “home” country from an outside perspective. I don’t have to feel as if it defines me. That’s freeing because I don’t have to feel like I’m defined by things I disagree with. In another sense, it’s complicated. Because I don’t feel like I belong to anything in terms of a home on this earth. There’s no house, there’s no city, there’s no place I can call home. There are places I have good memories in that are precious to me, but nothing that’s actually “home.” That’s hard.

Breanne: What about you, Wendy?

Wendy: I think my upbringing changed my perspective of the world. Seeing how other people think of certain things has been exciting and has opened up my mind to different perspectives. I am a very opinionated person. I’m thankful I’ve grown up in other cultures. I feel more open and ready to accept other opinions and listen. It’s taught me how to listen.

Switchfoot has this song called “Where I Belong.” I think you would really like it.

Breanne: Oooh, I don’t think I’ve heard that one. I do know of a song with a similar title by Building 429. The chorus goes, “All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong.”

Wendy: Yeah… I know that song too. My other TCK friend loves that song. I think the Switchfoot song is excellent because that’s the perspective I have. Let me read you the lyrics. As a Christian TCK, this wraps up my feelings and beliefs.

Until I die, I’ll sing these songs

On the shores of Babylon

Still looking for a home

In a world where I belong

So, many people have asked, especially in college, “how do you feel not being rooted, or not having a physical home?” For the first few years, I didn’t know how to answer that question. I was like, “Wow, that’s really hard. I don’t know. I feel like I’ve lost my home.” Because we moved from Prague and that house was emptied. Our friends left. It was like our home died. I experienced the most profound feeling of loss when we moved from Prague and left our home and neighborhood where we had lived for 10 years. So I think experiencing the grief of the loss of place and feeling like I no longer entirely belong to any physical space… Not feeling at home literally anywhere made the reality of “that is how we are spiritually” much more evident. We aren’t entirely at home anywhere, physically or spiritually. That Third Culture Kid lack of home has actually enriched my understanding of what it means to be a Christian in this world.

Breanne: That was so good… that’s what I’ve been trying to communicate with my writing. The second question I was going to ask was regarding the intersection of your upbringing and faith. You’ve already answered part of it. How has your faith helped you in your TCK struggles, maybe in a way you’ve observed TCKs without a relationship with Jesus Christ don’t have?

Wendy: Luke, do you want to speak into that?

Luke: My TCK-ness is a part of me that’s both positive and negative. The negative is not feeling rooted anywhere or not feeling at home anywhere. But I also feel at home with the people I have come to love. What makes the homes I’ve been a part of “home” is not the place. It’s because of my friends or family and now my wife. I think my connection to all of those people is also a spiritual connection. God is at the center of all those things. Throughout the times I have identified certain places as home, my relationships with the people have also been connected spiritually. My faith has helped me find connection points with people that either I’ve just met or people I’ve known for a long time… and that makes me feel at home.

Breanne: Hmm… that’s good. Ok, another question: what Biblical truth has helped you most as a TCK?

Luke: First, that God is good, and second that He is never changing. Life changes so much. You never really know what it’s going to look like. One thing you don’t have to worry about is that He won’t change.

Wendy: I’d say the truth that I belong to God is very healing and important. That there is belonging there. That’s been good for me to remember. Also, I think all the Bible passages where the Lord is talking about the exile and the sojourner are significant. The idea that the Lord loves the sojourner and the gentile. Almost every woman in Jesus’ genealogy is a gentile. The fact that “this is not a religion for whites, or Jews only, this is God’s love for the world.” I love focusing on the global nature of God’s love. It’s something that has become more real to me, the more I’ve lived abroad.

Breanne: That made me think of the passage in Hebrews 11. It talks about the people of faith in the Old Testament. They lived not looking back to the country they had come from but looking for a heavenly country and recognizing that their citizenship was in heaven. They didn’t conform to this world. And right after that, it says: God was not ashamed to be called their God, concerning what it said previously. I think that’s so cool.

Ok. Last question. This is more of a practical question. How are you using/have you used your TCK giftings/abilities/superpowers to the glory of God and the good of others? This could be anything from being more empathetic to languages and translating to writing fantasy books with different worlds.

Luke: For me, it’s less of a specific thing. Not like one thing I’ve sought to do. But definitely identifying with people who are feeling displaced or have a different perspective on life. When they find out I have a similar worldview to them, we connect.

Breanne: Well, I do know of one thing you are doing that I think is intentional, I mean, I don’t know, but I’d love if you could talk about the youth group you are leading at your international church. That’s definitely a way you are using your TCK upbringings to bless others.

Luke: That’s a good point.

Wendy: I just think the Lord has given us a part for TCKs. A big part of how we remained sane in high school was a really solid youth community. Feeling understood by other TCKs. It’s an essential part of what we both believe in. That’s something we have a heart for, and we hope it is helpful. We really love it.

Also, because we were both Pastors’ Kids, we were involved in the music at church. It was partially useful that our parents made us learn music to help out in the worship team. So that’s something we have going for us. That has been really good to use. I’m really thankful it’s useful.

I think something else that I have used is my global perspective and ability to relate to the kids at the international school I teach. I’ll be like, “Hey, where do you like going back to vacation?” They’ll often answer with a “We go home.” I follow with “where is home for you?” That’s a question that pops into my head because it’s such a relevant question for me. It’s great to have those conversations and feel understood. So that’s helped me teach.

Breanne: I think that’s huge. I think that’s so cool. You’re helping awaken the students to a self-awareness regarding being TCKs a lot earlier than they might have otherwise. Like you just said, asking questions like, “where is home to you?” That’s crucial because all the adults in their life use the word “home” for the passport culture. As far as I observed, most parents don’t give kids a global perspective. It’s usually very home/passport country oriented. Especially at international schools, ironically, I feel like people exaggerate their passport country. Like “I’m Korean, so I’m going to be %100 Korean.” Or “I’m American, so I’m going to talk in a Southern accent and talk about how amazing America is and wear patriotic clothing to school.”

Wendy: So true. 

Breanne: It’s really sad to me. Obviously, those countries are amazing places. That’s not the point. It’s just that you have a much richer heritage—a heritage comprising of more than only one country. So I think it’s cool that you can partially give them that perspective. “You are more than just American, you are more than just Korean, more than just Canadian” or whatever it is…

Wendy: Thanks. So yeah. Those are the things that come to my mind.

Breanne: Man, that was all so good. Thank you for doing this with me. It went a lot longer than I expected.

Wendy: Oh my gosh. I know! I was surprised about how much we had to say. Thanks for listening and wanting to hear. I feel very honored.

Breanne: Yeah. There were many things you guys mentioned that were great. I think it’s good to listen to others’ stories because they might express something differently or have another perspective on the grand thing called being a TCK. I know people will be very encouraged and blessed by this.

Wendy: Aww, for what it’s worth.

Luke: Good 😊


Credits to Sharon Ko Photography for the picture 🙂

New Blog Series

Hello friends! I want to share with you something that has been on my mind for a while.

I am starting a blog series for Christian TCKs, written by a Christian TCK.

I want to encourage them. And I want to use my writing to do that.

But I know that I am not an expert on the subject. So I need to learn. I have already started doing this. I have currently read two books on TCKs, as well as doing research in the Bible about various topics.

But I can’t just wait until I finish research to write on the topic. Research never ends.

So I am launching a series called Truth4TCKs. You might have seen the term before on a couple of my posts. I have written on the subject before, but I’m making it a priority.

Here’s how it will work: I will be posting every week as I usually do, and the majority of the posts will be on TCKs and Biblical encouragement. (The intersection of the two.)

I might occasionally post something about different subjects. However, as of today, my primary focus will be writing for and about Christian TCKs.

If you have been enjoying my posts on other topics and can’t really relate to my TCK related posts, I am sorry. However, I feel that this is where the Lord is leading my writing.

I want to ask you a favor. If you know any TCKs, please tell them about this series. I want to reach as many TCKs as possible with my writing, to encourage them because there is honestly not much of it going around.

Thank you all so much. In relation to this series, I will be posting little snippets with the hashtag #truth4tcks on my Instagram handle, so if you want to share my writing, sharing those posts on social media would be an amazing and easy way to get the word out.