Home for the Holidays

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For years home was a painful subject for me.

Although my mother is Singaporean and my father is American, I was born and raised a missionary kid in the Philippines for the first fifteen years of my life.  In our home there were always three different cultures alive and at play.  We spoke English, ate Chinese food, and constantly had a house full of Filipinos.  The cultural influences overlapped so seamlessly that to this day I still sometimes pause and wonder whether certain sayings, traditions, or stores are American, Filipino, or Chinese.

In the 1960s Dr. Ruth Hill Useem coined a term to describe kids like me.  She called us “third culture kids,” suggesting that the act of being raised in a foreign culture causes a child to create a “third culture,” which is a blend of the parent culture and the host culture.  While the child embraces attributes of both cultures, he or she never fully identifies with any culture.  Dr. Useem asserts that the only culture a TCK truly “owns” is the third culture—the hybrid culture.  Therefore they only feel truly at home with other TCK’s.

But the painful truth in all of Useem’s research is that this “third culture” exists within such a narrow framework that if you ever leave it, it’s likely gone forever.  For instance, my husband can travel the world, and always return “home” to Georgia.  He can talk about the Braves and the Bulldogs and instantly re-connect with the thousands of people who share his culture.  But when I left the Philippines at the age of fifteen, I left forever the small community of fellow missionary kids who shared my third culture.  Come graduation, all those MKs dispersed.  Sure, I still keep in touch with some of them, but we have no “place.”  There is no “Georgia” to return to.  There is no home to return to.

When it comes to home, I don’t know what your journey has been like—whether you’re going home for Christmas this year with excitement or dread.  Whether your home is joyful or broken, full or empty, celebrating new life or mourning lost life.  Whether you have a home at all.  But since thoughts of home always seem most poignant at Christmas, I’d like to share two powerful truths that helped me process my own feelings regarding home.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be without a home.
From His very birth, there was no place in this world for Jesus.  He wasn’t nestled into a cozy nursery with Pottery Barn bedding.  He was born like an outcast.  Like a child nobody esteemed.  Born with the animals.  As a man, Jesus would go on to tell those eager to follow him: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).  For thirty-three years, Jesus lived and breathed as a stranger of this world.  Certainly, he can relate to the homeless, the rejected, and the lonely.

Jesus has prepared a true home for all who belong to Him.
But the hope of Jesus is not merely in His human ability to relate with you.  It’s in His divine ability to save you.  To justify you, sanctify you, and one day to glorify you.  If you’ve ever felt a restless stirring, like you weren’t made for this place and nothing here can quite satisfy, it’s because you weren’t.  In John 14:3, as Jesus prepares the disciples for His coming departure, He promises them, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  In his book, In Light of Eternity, Randy Alcorn describes heaven as “home” in the truest sense.  That feeling you get when you’re home—when you kick your shoes off, flop onto the sofa, and finally breathe easy—that is the feeling we will have in heaven, only magnified to its purest, deepest, most satisfying form.  Until that day, part of us will always be dissatisfied with this earthly shadow of home.  In college I wrote a sonnet about this familiar ache in my own life.  It is an ache that reminds us we were never made for this world.

I don’t know what the year has brought your way, but this Christmas, if you are a true follower of Christ, you have great cause to celebrate!  Be grateful for the joys of the year—they are a taste not only of God’s grace, but of greater joys to come.  And in the sorrows, take heart.  Earth is not your final destination.

(Photo credit)

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3 thoughts on “Home for the Holidays

  1. The Narrowing Path

    Amen! Our true home is yet to be arrived at. I do remember the feeling of ‘homelessness’. Now I am fond of many things about my earthly home. Yet as I have finally become attached to it, I can feel the Lord directing me gently but firmly to let go. The world is changing rapidly and even true believers in the West are starting to feel the pressure of what it means to publicly profess Christ. My focus is now changing, and I am wondering where it will all lead!

    Reply
  2. Tina

    This really spoke to my heart, thankyou! I’m a South Indian, who was raised in England and have lived in the USA for 4 years married to an American. It’s been a huge struggle of mine to connect with people here and form deep relationships and this has opened my eyes as to why that might be. England is not my home and neither is the USA. And yet, I know that my true home is yet to come so there is always hope. Jesus has not only prepared a ‘home’ for us but He is our home here on earth too. He is our rest, the way, the truth, the life. Everything we could need! Knowing I belong to Him gives me hope that there is purpose in the ‘not-belonging’ of this life.

    Reply
    1. jeanneharrison Post author

      I’m so glad this spoke to you. I really can relate–cross-cultural rootlessness can be very painful, at least it has been in my life. Thanks for sharing–it’s always a comfort to know I’m not alone!

      Reply

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