… Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian … Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water … But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds … In time, [the priest] gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. Later she gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”—Exodos 2:15-22, NLT
The name Moses gave his first son reveals a deep dimension of his own identity. In ancient Hebrew culture, parents used to give names to their children that would foretell their future character. Joseph (Prosperous) would prosper. Joshua (Savior)( would save his people. Moses (pulled out) would be a liberator—as seen in the cases of the Hebrew slave, of Zipporah, and of his entire people. When Moses named his own son, he didn’t really think about the future of the child but rather, in his own situation. As a stranger in a strange land, he predicted that his son would live the same situation throughout his whole life.
In studying the children of expatriates, the anthropologist Ruth Useem described a phenomenon she called “Third Culture Kids” (TCK). Such persons can display the following characteristics:
- They have more in common with other TCKs than with people from their parents’ homeland.
- They are multilingual and easily accept people from other cultures.
- After returning to their parents’ country, it takes years for them to adjust. They suffer from reverse culture shock and feel homesickness for their adopted country.
- Althought the relate to multiple cultures, they may not feel they belong to any of them.
- The face an identity crisis, not knowing where they are from.
- They can have a high capcity for leadership, being flexible in their relationships and in their ideas about change.
Moses represent the classic TCK. As a Hebrew, he lived in childhood as a foreigner in the land of his birth. As a man in in Midian, he became a foreigner in a strange land. Returning to his people in Egypt, people saw him as just a strange man offering to carry them off to a new country.
Where did Moses come from? What people did he belong to? To what country did he swear his loyalty?
As a third culture kid, Moses realized that God deserved to have sovereignty in his life, and his citizenship awaited him in Heaven. As the lawgiver, he sought to form the culture of Heaven on Earth. If your immigrant children do no know who they are or where they’re from, “[keep] all these things in [your] heart and [think] about them often (Luke 2:19, NLT). Your children will make excellent candidates for celestial citizenship! Teach them to serve God. Although they may always feel like “foreigners and nomads here on earth,” (Hebrews 11:13, NLT), they can become ideal guides toward the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life y The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus.