Where is home?
We get asked this a lot. Seems like an innocent conversation starter, especially while waiting for the stewardess to turn off the “Fasten your seatbelt” sign, but it isn’t for us. I watch my kids wiggle and squirm as they try and answer this seemingly easy question. Their answer? Well, it often looks a little like this:
“Well, my passport says USA, my mailing address says Africa, my friends are from Canada, Australia, and Europe, but grandma and my cousins are all in the USA. Mom, where are we from?”
The experts like to call us THIRD CULTURE PERSONS. This is actually a popular subject matter in the world today and there are lots of varieties in this day and age. Maybe you were born in one country but your job has you transferred to another. Maybe you born here but are studying abroad over there. Maybe Mr. Right is from somewhere else and now your home is with him there. Or maybe you made the choice, like us, to move your family elsewhere in response to an undeniable calling to something beyond yourselves.
No matter the reason for your relocation, the studies share these same pieces of advice:
- Make anchors– have traditions or rituals that create memorable connections to your passport or “home” country. This could be visiting the same people or places when in your passport country or it could involve eating foods native to that country no matter where you are currently residing. The goals is to create experiences and memories that enable you to relate to your passport country even when not physically living there.
- Acknowledge the differences—embrace the highs and yet be willing to recognize the lows. For my kids, they love that they can swim every day of the year and yet they miss snow! There is good and bad in all things and the key is to respect them both.
- Narrow the gap—the experts explain that your biggest disappointments can be found wherever you have the largest gap between your expectations and your reality. When we first moved here, we had purchased a hot water heater and so we expected warm showers. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for our six months overseas. The memories of bathing our family in frigid water are forever frozen in our memory banks (pun intended!) Best thing to remember here? Since we can’t change our reality, it is advisable to adjust your expectations wherever possible.
Now I have a question for each of you: Where is home?
For anyone who attests that they are chasing hard after a man named Jesus, I would challenge you to think long and hard before you answer my seemingly simple question. I would attest that as Christians, no matter where our feet are currently planted, we are all THIRD CULTURE PERSONS.
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21
Dictionary.com defines a citizen as a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection (distinguished from alien); an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.
Does my passport say USA? Yes. Do I, therefore, owe my allegiance to its government and am I entitled to its protection? Sure do. Am I not also, however, sold-out in body, soul, and mind to my identity in Jesus? Absolutely.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
1 Peter 2: 9-12
So friends, how shall we navigate this conundrum? Well, I happen to have some experience as a third culture person so please allow me to share some advice that I’ve acquired along the way. In fact, why don’t we just use the advice from our experts above.
- Make anchors– have traditions or rituals that create memorable connections to your passport or “home” country. What does that look like for us? Daily celebrating things of our eternal home. We should be reading God’s word everyday- to fix our eyes on His truth, His language, and His leadership. We can use holidays like Lent, Easter, Advent, and Christmas as tangible reminders in our sojourn here of WHOSE WE ARE and WHAT WE WERE MADE FOR.
- Acknowledge the differences—embrace the highs and yet be willing to recognize the lows. As a passport-carrying citizen of the affluent country of America, it can be hard to daily interact with the impoverished reality of my friends here in Africa. No amount of guilt or anger, however, can change the reality of what I was born into—or what they were not. I have had to learn the art of living within the tension. The same goes for us living here on earth. We were made for more but we are not home yet. We can celebrate what we love here in our daily lives with no guilt, shame or anger. We must also learn, however, how to live in the tension of that eternally deposited homesickness that this world can never satisfy.
- Narrow the gap—the experts explain that your biggest disappointments can be found wherever you have the largest gap between your expectations and your reality. Remember the advice I shared above? Since we can’t change our reality, it is advisable to adjust your expectations wherever possible. Phew, let that sink in for a minute. There are things I HATE about life here on Earth. A friend dying of cancer with a beautiful wife and 3 infants left to carry on life here at home. An alcoholic father who loved me dearly but never recognized how his disease-led lies would deeply tarnish my ability to trust. Or a corrupt government that would rather take a bribe than do the hard work of carrying for the orphans and widows of this broken land.
Friends, we are not home, yet. We are aliens of this world. We were made for more.
Our eternal citizenship is of a perfect heaven with a righteous King and a flawless Father. And best news of all?
“…we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”