“For most of us, being raised as foreigners meant our stay in [insert country] was free of permanence. For some, a temporary stay meant a year or two; for others, time dragged on indefinitely, but always, always, the time would come to say goodbye. Our parents may have chosen to remain, but we would leave. We were raised to be different, we were raised knowing we wouldn’t stay, knowing that as soon as we finished school we would leave and probably not come back. And for children in my family, American citizens, the place we would go would be the United States.” From Nina Sichel in Unrooted Childhoods
We knew we wouldn’t stay.
When we were in our passport countries we thought we belonged to our adopted countries; but when we returned to the countries we called home, we and they had both changed. For the first time we realized that we needed a reason to go back. In the words of my daughter, Annie “I belonged to Pakistan and Egypt, but Pakistan and Egypt did not belong to me.”
That realization alone brought on a crisis.
Who else needs to have a reason to go ‘home’? Isn’t one of the definitions of home the place that was supposed to take you in when no one else would? Others don’t need excuses to go home, but we did. Perhaps this is when the realization hits us that we belong everywhere and nowhere.
And then there’s the problem of how to articulate this. How do we explain this phenomenon to others? We knew we wouldn’t stay. We knew we didn’t belong — not really.
The words from Unrooted Childhoods were poignant reminders to me that from the beginning, I knew this. From the time I was a little girl to the day I graduated, bags packed and ready, I knew that my time in Pakistan would ultimately come to an end.
When you’re raised in a community that believes this world is not our home, that we are just passing through it, you cast aside the poignant loss. Everything is impermanent anyway, some of us just have to learn it earlier than others. And all that is true – but the impermanence sometimes catches up with you, and you find yourself grieving, not even knowing why.
If we are limited on this earth to place, is it reasonable to assume we will grieve its absence? We get glimpses of the eternal, we know it is placed in our hearts, yet it often feels out of reach, far removed from daily life.
The incarnation was about God being limited to place and time, being limited to and by the human experience. During those 33 years on earth, he was a part of a community, he was defined by place. We read the words of scripture and hear that he is from Nazareth – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” While he was on this earth, he laughed and cried; prayed and partied. He had compassion and he voiced anger. He was fully present, even as he looked to something infinitely greater. He knew eternity, and yet he limited himself to that which was finite.
He was a third culture kid. And he knew he would go back home. Yet his back home was the one where he really belonged, and the one where we really belong. It’s the one where all of life will make sense. Where every day will be better than the day before and talk of loss of place will not exist. We will be home at last.
Until then, while there is no place where I will feel fully at home, there are many places where I feel partially at home. And I intend to explore and live in as many of them as possible.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11