In James Michener’s “Hawaii”, Nyuk Tsin Kee stands before the officer in her examination for United States citizenship. She has relentlessly driven herself to prepare for this exam. More than anything else, she wants to become a citizen of America. But now she is strangely silent. When the examiner asks who is the father of our country, Mrs. Kee does not answer. Michener explains that the old woman is overwhelmed by the importance of the moment. She has so wanted to belong, first to her father, later to her Punti husband (who made fun of her big feet), then to her children (who feared that she might have leprosy), then to America (which has turned its back on Orientals). Now that she is about to attain what she has so fervently hoped, she has lost her tongue.
Finally, when the examiner asks her the third time, she begins to speak. Then she can’t be stopped. She names the capitals of the states, she explains the three branches of government, she describes the Bill of Rights, and still she talks. But when she triumphantly leaves the immigration building as a citizen, she tells her family that when you are a citizen, even the earth beneath your feet feels different. That’s shalom peace. You belong. You are a citizen of the nation of God. You have been brought back to God not through what you have done but through the efforts of His Son.