Letters Never Sent
If Kleenex boxes could be sent via email, she should have sent me one of those too. I promised to write a review and I’ll say upfront that parents of Third Culture Kids should buy this book (I am not an affiliate of anything and earn nothing if you do). I tried to read the book while in the lobby of a hotel and had to put it away so I wouldn’t snort and sniffle and otherwise disrupt the peace. I finished it at home.
The sub-title of the book is: a global nomad’s journey from hurt to healing and that is a perfect description of this book. As the mother of boarding school kids, my eyes and heart burned while I read about her loneliness and the lies she told herself, and that seemed to be perpetuated by the environment, that she must be strong, must not feel the hurt.
The book is a series of letters Ruth didn’t write until later in life and chronicles her journey that began the first day of boarding school as a six-year old in the 1950s when, in her words, “her heart got pulled out.” Ruth writes bluntly and honestly and compassionately about her years in boarding school, high school in the US while her parents stayed in Nigeria, college, marriage, having children, and eventually moving overseas herself. She walks through separations and brokenness, loss and deep questions of faith.
Where was God when she was sick at boarding school and there was no comforting mother’s hand to soothe her? Where was God when she had to say good-bye, again, to parents and siblings and Nigerian friends? Where was God when she felt like a failure for crying?
And, I think ultimately, where is God when the pain is unbearable and is it okay to say that something good hurts like death?
She writes, “I wish someone would acknowledge that pain of what He is asking. Just once, I wish someone would give me a hug and say, ‘I understand. It’s okay to say that the right thing to do hurts. Go ahead and cry.'”
Through depression and wrestling, Ruth comes to a fuller understanding of grace and experiencing the comfort of God. The end of the book has a reflection on this comfort and on what it means to be a person made in the image of God. She also describes her journey of coming to write Third Culture Kids, which I found delightful because the process of writing always fascinates me.
Along with prayers and questions for my own children, I came away from this book with a longing to know this comfort of God, and with hope. Hope that through pain, Jesus shines beautiful and true and that the gospel has power. This is the only hope parents can hold when we know our choices are affecting our children for better and for worse, like Kelley wrote about on Tuesday in the Painting Pictures series.
Ruth writes, “There is great richness in this Third Culture Kid lifestyle and there is also great pain – ironically often because of the richness.”
Thank you Ruth, for your vulnerability. Thank you for contributing to this blog, for bringing my soul comfort, and for being a gentle shepherd of so many parents and TCKs.
Have you read any of Ruth’s books? Heard her speak? Other insights to share?