A Prayer For My Third Culture Kids

Earlier this week I shared my expat parenting philosophy on Velvet Ashes. Today I’m linking up with The Grove on Velvet Ashes with a prayer for my TCKs. ~Elizabeth


I remember reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond together and feeling such a kinship with the main character Kit. She’d lived a life of privilege with her wealthy English grandfather on the island of Barbados, but when he died, she discovered his large debts. In order to pay them all, she then sold all his belongings.

After that she didn’t know what else to do, so she booked a passage to New England, where some of her Puritan relatives lived. Her cousins’ conservative lifestyle and religious customs were completely alien to her. When the ship docked on the shores of Connecticut, Kit realized “There was something strange about this country of America, something that they all seemed to share and understand and she did not” — a TCK moment if ever I saw one.

Kit suffers intense culture shock. She’s already grieving the loss of her grandfather, and she now doesn’t fit into Puritan culture. In some ways she’s even rejected by the community. She doesn’t understand their religion or their worldview, and friends are hard to find. Her uncle is particularly cold towards her, and she’s never performed such difficult, backbreaking labor before. New England winters are brutally cold and long. She misses leisurely tropical island life in Barbados: the heat, the sunshine, swimming in the ocean, her grandfather’s extensive secular library.

But she grows to love her extended family. She even grows to love the beautiful fields nearby. Towards the end of the book, Kit attends a wedding. She thinks about how she doesn’t fit in in New England, even though she loves the people and the place: “An almost intolerable loneliness wrapped Kit away from the joyous crowd. She was filled with a restlessness she could not understand. What was it that plagued her with this longing to turn back?”

wbbShe had previously decided to return to Barbados and search for work there, but as she continues reflecting on both her old life and her new life, she realizes she can’t go back to the way life was with her wealthy grandfather. Her two cousins have both fallen in love, and she realizes that she has as well — only the man she loved wasn’t a Puritan permanently rooted to the Connecticut soil. He was a sailor, a migratory man, a man of good character, a free spirit like herself. And he loved her back. “Home” for her would be anywhere he was. Marrying him would mean continually traveling between Barbados and Connecticut, always on the move, but always with him. Literally, and not just figuratively, she was going to live in the In Between.

Our Sonlight curriculum chose this novel for its relation to the Salem Witch Trials in early American history, but for me it turned out to be a metaphor for the life of the TCK. Crossing cultures, never completely identifying with one culture, never fully belonging, always grieving a loss of some sort, but needing, so desperately needing, someone to love, care for, and understand her. So with that story in mind, I offer this prayer:


My child, I’m well aware that in this life, not everyone gets married.

But should you happen to marry, first and foremost I pray you will marry a fellow lover of Jesus.

And then — oh then I pray you will marry someone who feels at home in the In Between spaces, who knows how to live in the margins of life, who’s comfortable crossing over and blending in, even if never quite fully.

I pray you will marry someone with a wide view of the world, who doesn’t think you’re crazy for your wide view, either.

I pray you will marry someone who looks to God for full identity and belonging, someone who will understand your need to do so as well.

I pray you will marry someone who understands the pain of separation and of goodbyes, someone who shares your yearning for heaven.

I pray you will marry someone who understands that love is the best kind of medicine for a hurting heart and who knows how to give it.

That person doesn’t have to be a TCK, though they might be. Your Papa isn’t a TCK, but he understands loss and living in the fringe. He understands love and nuance.

So I pray for you to experience what I have experienced myself: that your heart will be fully understood and accepted, fully loved and wanted, fully celebrated and cared for.

I pray you will have many years of adventure together, tasting of a perfect heaven here on a very imperfect earth, each year growing ever closer to our God and to each other.


9 thoughts on “A Prayer For My Third Culture Kids

  1. Elizabeth, I love this for many reasons! I love your prayer – as I reread it the word that you use often is so much at the core of the TCK’s heart – to be understood. I love of course the mention of Barbados! :-). I really must read this novel. It was never a part of my schooling literature growing up in Barbados (!); I heard of it for the first time in China when an elementary teacher asked me to share with her class about Barbados because they were reading the book and she knew I was from there. It’s now on my must-read list! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the metaphor of the life of a TCK.

    • Aw, I’m so glad you love this. 🙂 And you’re right — that innate desire to be understood, it’s big. So big and important, I think, that that’s why a friend of mine (who used to work in Beijing) is writing a book on TCKs called “Misunderstood.”

      And I do hope you love the novel, Beth. The culture clash between New England and Barbados is pretty steep in it — perhaps you understand some of that. But never fear, it does have a good ending 🙂

    • Steal away! Or, as one of my good friends told me when I wanted to “steal” one of her prayers, prayers can’t be stolen. They’re for everyone 🙂

      And about that In Between — yeah, it can be so intense sometimes, can’t it??

  2. I love your prayer. 🙂 I read “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” for school, too. We also do Sonlight. It was such a great book, but I didn’t think about it in terms of culture clash and TCKs. I think we’re going to reread it in the next couple years, so I’ll keep that in mind.

    • Thanks, Anna, it really is my hope for my TCKs. 🙂

      And you will love the cross-cultural depth and richness you find in “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” next time around! It’s always fun to talk with another Sonlight mom 🙂

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