Red, white, and blue flags adorned the hallways and dining room. The pile of unreliable firecrackers on the back porch drew more anxiety than excitement for my Mama. My sister and I tied red ribbons on the end of our braids and my whole family adorned the traditional Old Navy t-shirts. All of this could only mean one thing to our neighbors, the Americans were about to celebrate!
Growing up in Central Asia as a missionary kid meant a lot of adjustment and adaptation. My mom and dad made sure that all five of us Hanzel kids learned to celebrate every American holiday 11 hours ahead of and thousands of miles away from the United States. Our Asian friends took particular joy in seeing a bunch of Americans gorge themselves with watermelon and shamelessly partake in potato sack races.
In retrospect, I can see how my personal culture was shaped on these holidays. Every missionary kid is what’s called a Third Culture Kid (TCK). My first culture is the one I’m born into (the United States culture) and my second culture is the one I’m raised in (the Central Asian culture). The combination of these two cultures creates the Frankenstein worldview of a TCK!
In honor of this Independence Day, and from my TCK perspective, I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite and least favorite things about the United States. My only disclaimer is that I make some very basic generalizations in this blog post. While some of my least favorite things are true in general, my absolute favorite things are often exceptions to the negatives.
My Least Favorite Things about America:
Americans, in general, are very self-consumed. What can help me? What will further my goals? When can we do what I want? Why can’t I have my way? In America we are used to skipping lines, cutting corners, and “having it made our way.” I challenge you, as an American, to abolish this mindset. Challenge the culture’s “Me” mentality by laying your life down at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:15).
The Lack of Proper Motivation
Americans are not unmotivated, but often place their motivation poorly. Our Founding Fathers and Mothers did not lack motivation, driven by the desire that all people should be free to worship the Lord. I find that often times, we are motivated… but primarily by money, success, fame, pleasure, or family (or even in the lack of these things). We have forgotten our First Love, in whom our perfect motivation is found. Ask the Lord to search your heart’s motives (Psalm 139:23-24).
My Favorite Things about America:
America is overflowing, if not saturated, in resources. No matter the need, this country seems ready and able to aid anyone. Likewise, I have become spiritually fed in America from the vast Christian resources available. From online resources (like the Gospel Coalition and Desiring God) to podcasts (like The Briefing and Ask Pastor John), from books (like concordances and commentaries) to conferences (like church retreats and nation-wide denominational meetings), we are resourced to the fullest. We must be grateful and take advantage of these resources!
I can go to the Walmart off Classen and NW Expressway and pray with the employee on aisle 8. I can host a Bible study in Stars & Stripes park off of Lake Hefner. I can meet with my Jen Wilkin book club at a friend’s house with the front door open. I have freedom. You have freedom. I thrive off of this freedom, knowing that at one point in my life I was surrounded by Central Asian brothers and sisters that did not and do not have that freedom. Do you exercise this freedom well and often? Do you thank the Lord for those freedoms?
This Independence Day, stretch your Christian American perspective just enough to see a broader worldview. Enjoy the games and food, knowing that the Lord is pleased with pure pleasure. Invite an international to join you in your festivities and also be on the look out for anyone who may otherwise spend the holiday alone.
May God be with you and your family, wherever you are celebrating, and may He bring to mind His goodness and blessings to the United States of America.
Meet the Author!
Hannah Hanzel is an opinionated, passionate gal that loves sharing what God is doing in her often busy and complicated life. She strives to show God's glory in working as the Art Director for the Baptist Messenger, serving as a multi-client freelance graphic designer, and communing with CRBC. When she's not working, you can find her sipping coffee in a hammock, watching classic '40s movies, or going on an adventure with friends or family.