God is Good.
"I life up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2
When I was ten years old my family moved to the UK. Dad was a missionary with the Navigators and was assigned to two American Air Forces bases in England. My parents were sent overseas to minister to the men and women serving far from their home. Some of the best memories I have of growing up are of rallies every Wednesday night, retreats, camping trips and hiking through the amazing landscapes of the UK. Summers spent in Switzerland and Germany for conferences, vacations in Scotland and Austria and France, all were part of my formative years. It was a fabulous part of my childhood.
For all the amazing wonders of life with my family, there are still the realities of living in a foreign country. My parents were not military, so my siblings and I attended civilian schools in England. Some of my classmates were not overly fond of Americans, and I was on the receiving end of my fair share of bullying. I did not always respond well. And for a brief time I turned my emotional baggage into weapons and used it to cause suffering of fellow classmates I chose to pick on. I was twelve, but I remember it still.
I lost friends as a result of my behavior, and quite frankly I deserved to lose them. But, although losing those friendships was a direct consequence of my own choices, it still gutted me. My life was changed for a short period of time and there was definitely emotional pain. I was never as close to those girls again.
"The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18
Even now I remember going to school alone. Sitting in class - alone. Eating lunch - alone. I was an American attending school in a foreign country and I lost friendships developed over two years in my school. I went from having lots of people I could talk with to having no person who wanted to be seen speaking with me. My words and actions hurt people and word traveled fast. The school was not that big and I was closer to the outside of the circle anyway, so bad behavior on my part pushed me out of the circle entirely.
No matter how we are treated, God asks us as believers to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit in our daily lives. To others and to ourselves. So self-compassion is also important because sometimes we take our introspection to the extreme and it turns to shame. My twelve-year-old self certainly felt shame and sadness for my behavior. On the other hand forgiveness and grace and mercy are a part of who God is, and I was able to experience all of those parts of God's character first hand.
A few girls at that school did end up befriending me again, and my family moved to a different village a couple of months later. It turned out this new beginning at a new-to-me-school just thirty minutes from my old school was exactly what I needed. I took my lessons learned to my new location and I was very careful at thirteen to not repeat my mistakes. Although that time was incredibly hard, I am grateful (as an adult) for how the consequences of my actions shaped me. Kindness, love, mercy, goodness, self-control, gentleness, love - against those there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).
"For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you." Psalm 86:5
The next few years of my life were spent in another school as captain of the Netball team, as a starting member of our field hockey team, riding horses, learning German, housing a foreign exchange student named Heike, and also making lots of friends. I'm grateful for those experiences, and blessed beyond measure. That time was amazing.
Then...we moved. To Texas.
"Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me." Psalm 69:16
The first move at ten was interesting, but not hard. Until my unfortunate mistakes in my friendships at the grand ol' age of twelve, I actually made friends easily. Moving to a new country at ten was exciting, new and fun. Our family was tight and we loved it.
The move back to the United States was something else entirely. I was sixteen and moving from an English village to a suburb of Dallas. The culture was immensely different. I spent my junior and senior years of high school in shock. "Culture shock" is real and the United States was not a country I was at all familiar with anymore. Every student in England wore a uniform to school, perfect for a missionary family short on funds. There was no way for my family to keep up with the fashion conscious high-schoolers of the Dallas area.
"You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands. May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your Word." Psalm 119:73-74
Our family attended a church in our new city, and this church was my life-line. The sports I was involved in while living overseas were nowhere to be found in my new school (Netball anyone??), and all the clubs and various time-honored traditions in Texas high schools were absolutely foreign to me. I still remember the out-of-body experience of my first Pep Rally. Now THAT was traumatic.
My last two years of high school were spent learning my new place, and discovering how to move forward in a new country. They call us "Third Culture Kids" - kids who grow up in different countries other than their country of origin, only to return back to find they no longer understand their place of birth. We operate differently, even now sometimes I feel like a fish out of water and I've been back on U.S. soil a long time. I've added some years... I refuse to call myself old (I have a kid going to college in the Fall and I'm living - slightly - in denial).
But that's how formative our growing up years are, they are with us forever. We grow, we change, we move forward, but we never leave our childhood fully behind. The child we were is always a part of the adult we become. We are not perfect as children, and we do not grow into perfect adults. But Jesus says I'm worth dying for - so all of my mistakes, shame, and difficult experiences are covered by his Grace.
Through all of the changes, the formation and the growth, one thing I am grateful for is a God who is GOOD.
"The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made." Psalm 145:9
There is always something to learn. We are never without choices, without options. God's love and mercy sees us through so much pain and joy. So many times in my own life where my choices were not made well, God stayed with me and showed me that HE is ALWAYS good. And even when things happen out of my control, God is with me.
Healing comes. It often takes time, work and lots of ups and down, but God shows us he is there. No matter where our physical location, or the turmoil we experience as a result of choices made by others, or how many times we personally mess up, God is there when we turn to him for help. Because GOD IS GOOD.
"The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them." Psalm 34:19
Stacy Walker is a Third Culture Kid. Her family moved around and experienced the amazing opportunities afforded to children who grow up in different cultures, around foreign languages and amazing places. On our podcast today Stacy talks about how her journey includes both opportunity and heartache, including battling an eating disorder and time spent in recovery. Her story is an encouragement to all of us that God is Good.