The Question Heard Round the World

The famous shot in American history heard round the world actually wasn’t. Heard round the world, that is. Let’s get all nitpicky, shall we, as it was probably heard by a few.

But a common question heard by cross-cultural workers the world over, now we’re talking about ALL. AROUND. THE. WORLD.

How long will you be home?

When do you go home?

Do you consider Asia your home?

Where is your home?

By family, by friends, by locals, by random strangers, by our kids, by our teammates, by our own hearts. In every nook and cranny of this globe echoes a variation involving the idea of home.

Can I get a witness?

What is up with the obsession with home? Didn’t Jim Reeves sing “This world is not my home I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”

Not to creep you out, but the next verse in the song is about joining his mom in glory. His mom. Not his creator or savior or redeemer. And how he can’t feel at home in this world anymore because his mom is in Gloryland. (I’m sorry to ruin the song for you and no wonder I was familiar with just the first verse.)

Now part of me gets that our final hope is not here on earth and that heaven is our ultimate home. But, I don’t think we’re supposed to mark our time on earth like we are prisoners counting off the days on a long sentence. We are not here by accident or to do penance and this sense of home runs so very deeply.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Pilgrim’s Regress Be sure it is not for nothing that the Landlord has knit our hearts so closely to time and place – to one friend rather than another and one shire more than all the land.”

And isn’t that what makes a place or person home? Knitting (leave it to an old bachelor to bring sewing into the discussion!). Being knit to family, to friends, to this house or room or city or climate or type of cooking.

Home town.

Home cooking.

Home.

I hadn’t realized how much my sense of home was tied to locations until I wrote about leaving Lawrence, Kansas and how sad I was. A friend commented that he’d moved so much during his life that “home” isn’t rooted in places for him, instead it’s in people. My first response was “That’s ridiculous, home isn’t housed in people, it’s housed in places.” But since I’m polite and all, of I just said, what a lovely idea.

In reflection, I see how experience impacts our sense of home. At age three we moved into “my permanent address” – you know, the one where all my mail goes when I live overseas. The one I gave in kindergarten when we were pulled out of class one-by-one to check how high we could count, did we know our colors, what was our phone number and address.

I could drift far and wide in the world because that house anchored me.

And my family is small. Growing up, I had bajillions of great-aunts and uncles. Many of whom didn’t have children, so my childhood was filled with these colorful characters who kept dying on me. By the end of college I had three grandparents left, one great aunt, one aunt and no first cousins. If home is rooted in people, well, I was on a sinking ship.

Throw into the mix that I have spent the majority of adulthood in Asia … in two different apartments (once again, see how strongly place is reinforced in my story?). Two homes in nearly twenty years.

Back to the questions asked above. In answer, this has become the truest response I have to offer: I am always home and I am never home.

When I am in Asia, am I home? Yes, oh yes. Parts of me make sense in Asia in ways that are just odd in the U.S. When I’m in the U.S. am I home? Yes, oh yes.

As C.S. Lewis said, it is not for nothing that we are knit to places and people.

This is where I’ve landed after wrestling with, thinking about, loving and at times hating, that we are called to live in (at least) two cultures – it’s not to make us feel fractured (though it can have that affect) or play with us – instead, it is to broaden us, deepen us, and refine us as image bearers when it comes to the idea of home.

Home sweet home. Part of the cost and the blessing of our lives is that wherever we are, we are home and at the same time missing a part of ourselves.

Over to you – what has helped influence your sense of home? How do you answer the question about home?

8 Comments

  1. Hadassah February 1, 2017

    Living overseas has made me say often that home is where I lay my head down for the night. Now that may be stretching the truth some, because then, I’ve stayed in plenty of hotels that I’d have to call home. But, it’s made each of my homes, in two countries over the past nine years, feel more like home sooner. When we moved to our current country of service, I couldn’t get over the “village city” we lived in. Every time we drove in from town through our main street, I’d forced myself to say, “Home Sweet (insert name of town)”. I’d almost say it sarcastically, but just saying it made it a reality that I could live with sooner. Now, as we get ready to tradition off the field and back to our “home” country, I know it too will not be home (at least not right away). And, I’ll need to trick myself in similar ways. I’ll forever be longing for things from my first country of service (where we lived for five years and my girls were born) and maybe…ok, most likely, even my current country of service. So, I’ll go back to telling myself that home is where I lay my head, and drive around saying, “Home Sweet (insert name of city or town)”, until one day, it becomes just that.

  2. Lisa February 2, 2017

    I love this! We are anticipating our first “home service assignment” or whatever you call it – we’re going back to our “passport country” this summer for a couple of months. (And that phrase – passport country – makes so much more sense than it did before we left for our country of service). My husband said, in reference to going back, “I’m not really looking forward to going home, because I feel so at home here.” He didn’t do it on purpose – he referred to TWO places in the SAME sentence as HOME. Which I think sums it up perfectly. As far as feeling at home here – we try as much as we can to make it feel home-like. I think the culture’s similarity to the one we come from, and the people’s openness to us helps a lot. We stayed here our first summer, other than a 10-day vacation in England. It was amazing how much this place felt like home upon our return. We also inherited a couple of cats this second year, which makes our apartment feel like home. You don’t take your cats on vacation, or keep them in a hotel room! We also encourage the children especially to call THIS home, and not refer to any place in the United States as home. It’s just semantics, but I think it helps us adjust when we think “I miss the place we come from” – which is entirely valid and understandable – instead of saying, “I want to go back home.” That sort of thinking keeps us from moving forward, and feeling at home here.

  3. Carrie February 2, 2017

    This is good and yes – everyone asks! And it helps to have words to explain it to those immediately around us and those far away from us. Growing up in a broken family that moved all the time, I resound with your friend’s comment about people rather than place being home. My family and my best friend in the States are my ‘home’ there. In three different states! My church there and here is my ‘home’. My friends and students and coworkers here are ‘home’. And I guess that is what will make Heaven home – not the place, but Who is there.

  4. Amy E February 2, 2017

    I resonate with what Hadassah said about home is where she lays her head. That is my view most days, too. Wherever I lay down to sleep is home. However, it really is deeper than that, and I don’t know that I even know what I consider home anymore. I don’t feel that I completely “fit in” anywhere. I often confuse people because I call my church overseas “my church” and use “we” when referring to it, but I do the same for my church in the States…I don’t think this is something that will ever be black and white again, like it used to be pre-living overseas. I love what Carrie said though about our heavenly home. It is not the place, it is the Who is there. Love that!

  5. Wendy February 3, 2017

    It’s a tricky subject! I try to be as present as possible wherever I am located (while keeping in touch with people from other locations in my life). Answering questions about home is harder. I feel as though I’m less than 100% Australian now and definitely some percent Japanese. Plus some percent “TCK-like”.

  6. Elizabeth February 7, 2017

    “I am always home and I am never home.”

    Oh how true this is. How true it always is.

    And thank you for the C.S. Lewis quote 🙂

  7. Amanda February 7, 2017

    Thank you for this post Amy, and the theme of home. This was beautifully written.
    My heart is heavy in this season of wrestling, recognizing, and figuring out where to land when it comes to resting in this idea of home. Hearing so many different voices and stories provides an unexpected comfort. Thank you!!!

  8. MaDonna February 13, 2017

    Good thoughts. I’m married to a German MK, so his idea of ‘home’ was not the same as mine when we first married. HA. I grew up in Missouri and lived in one house where my mom still lives to this day. That was home to me. The small town where I grew up was home. The family, friends and neighbors were all a part of what I called home. When I moved overseas, it was “going home” when I would return to the passport country to visit. But, then I got married and started making some roots in foreign soil (I guess that’s called transplanted?). We moved various times – almost every 2-3 years, so home wasn’t exactly a place to me anymore. And then when we go visit my family and they begin asking us if we are glad to be “home”, I cringe because honestly, it was my home, but it was never my husband’s, nor my children’s.
    I’ve been thinking about what makes our home. I know it is my family of 5 in whatever abode we are living in at the moment. Sometimes it is a summer/winter temporary lodging, and other times it is where we spend most of our time. One of the things I have done to help make each new home feel like “home” has been to take our wall hangings with us. I always feel “at home” once they are on the wall.

    I don’t think that getting married made the switch for my thinking – it was the growing some roots in the new place. I do think, though, that my husband’s perspective on this topic did affect me, but I believe that other TCKs that I have met also affected me. I just wanted to be clear about that – as I don’t believe that you must get married to find home. =)

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