“Researchers Jeffrey Keuss and Rob Willett describe the TCK experience from a theological perspective, using the phrase “sacredly mobile.” When seen in this light, they describe the experience of the sacredly mobile adolescent as a journey in following God’s vocational call. More importantly, the sacredly mobile adolescent reminds the rest of the Christian community that our identity and vocation in Christ are not physically located in a “home” but can be anywhere in the world.”*
I read the quote above two years ago. For two years I have mulled over and thought about sacred mobility. Mobility has been a part of my life from birth. At three months old, I was diapered and swaddled and left New York Harbor in the arms of my mom. I spent the next six weeks, six weeks that I would never remember, on a massive ship in a sea so big that you could not see land. This mobility continued throughout my childhood, living in different houses in the southern part of Pakistan and going back and forth between boarding school and home.
So I knew mobility – but what about sacred mobility?
From my faith perspective there are a number of examples of sacred mobility.
The examples begin in Genesis and are woven through both Old and New Testaments. Consider Abraham who was called to leave everything and move to a new land, given promises that took years to fulfill; some never fulfilled in his lifetime. Then there is Jacob who ended up fleeing home after stealing the birthright of his brother. His son Joseph, whose brothers, jealous of his favored status, sold him into slavery in Egypt. There’s Ruth, who left home and traveled with her mother-in-law, speaking words made famous throughout generations for their love and commitment. Words that are still spoken at weddings today “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
There is the Jewish diaspora in Babylon, where the prophet Daniel became a trusted friend of the king. Those examples are a few of many.
Sacred mobility. What does it mean? In an increasingly mobile world, it feels like an important concept to understand. Can we see the movement of people as something sacred? Something that God has continually used for good? Can I see my own movement, my own going from place to place as sacred?
Sacred mobility – what does it mean for the immigrant? What does it mean for the migrant worker? What does it mean for the refugee? What does it mean for the expat? What does it mean for the TCK?
And is there a downside to describing the TCK experience in these terms? While I agree that the sacredly mobile adolescent reminds us that “our identity and vocation in Christ are not physically located in a “home” but can be anywhere in the world,” is it too much of a burden to place on them? Can a vocational call be imposed on a child?
I’m not sure about the burden piece – I’m not sure about the vocational call for a child, but I can certainly say that at some point in my TCK journey, when I was quite young, I knew that God was using ‘place’ in my story. That he uses ‘place’ in all of our stories. This theme continued on through my adult years, as long as I was overseas. It came as a shock to realize that I could believe in sacred mobility when I was overseas, but had a difficult time when that mobility meant I was back in my passport country.
I’m pondering these things as I sit in a hotel in Idaho. I’ve been traveling for a work job and the people I am working with have welcomed me with their hearts. So has the wide, open land and clear blue sky. I’ve had little time for contemplative thought, but when I woke up today, in a hotel room far from home, I began thinking once again about this idea of sacred mobility.
I still have a lot to think about when it comes to this concept. Can I believe for the refugee who has lost everything, that somehow their journey is sacred in the redemptive story that God is writing? It’s a big ask.
But this I do know: As humans, we are tethered to earth with hearts made for eternity. When we acknowledge God’s loving orchestration of our journey, our mobility does indeed become sacred. And sometimes that takes a lifetime.