I’ve always been easy-come, easy-go with home. Wherever I am sleeping I’ve called home. Not really as a statement about my emotions or psyche but more about convenience in conversation. If someone asks me where I’m from it’s easy to reply “York Pennsylvania.” When I discuss going home to the house where my family resides I refer to it as “home-home.” (Similarly to the fifth grade, when you “like-like” a boy versus just liking him.)
Being a missionary has made me reconsider. My TCK — third-culture-kid — friends at Houghton College always talked about not knowing how to answer the question “Where are you from?” They all had and have varied ideas of where home exists. TCKs live in the middle of a unique struggle that I will never understand. As a 20-something single missionary, I have my own wrestling with home; it came up when I visited Houghton for New Vision Week then visited home-home.
“If you don’t go, you can’t return.”
When I left Indiana I realized that Greenwood has never felt home or even home-ish. I tend to settle in quickly, but in Greenwood I couldn’t and I can’t. Driving to the grocery store I still feel like a stranger. I’ve worked here in the OMS office and in the secular world at a café and I still feel disconnected. My apartment keeps me well but I think it’s just waiting for the day I leave. I’ve started to feel as if I’m annoying everyone I come in contact with and…truthfully…I admit & apologize for getting a little snippy.
Visiting at Houghton College in October, I felt more relaxed and happy than I do in Indiana. I felt creative again, I felt like I knew where I was and the place knew me. I knew it like an alligator creeping out of the Everglades and lying by the roadside – he likes the warmth, but sees the tractor trailers and knows he can’t stay.
York, Pennsylvania in October was oh-so-comfortable. I slept like a baby (Clarification: not the babies who wake up at 5 AM. Those weird ones who sleep through the night.) and my parents and my books were there. The kitchen loves me. We went to a diner where I had delicious Eggs Benedict. I take better pictures there, but I felt as if I were that alligator again.
In the end I realized I do not have a place that I can call home and feel home-y. Both Houghton and York make me happy to visit and all three, including Indiana, are home to people I love. But I do not have a place to settle and believe that I’m arrived.
Lately this has gotten me exhausted: what if I get to Australia and spend four more months with that uncomfortable Indiana feeling?
Lately this has also gotten me concerned: what if I get to Ireland and spend two years feeling like a stranger?
“Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere.
I would be different.”
–Under the Tuscan Sun (film)
Then I thought about the girls (and guys) I know who have said they want to marry someone who gives them butterflies in their stomachs. That is, in fact, the last thing I want. If I’m going to marry someone, I want to be with someone who I feel like I’ve always known. Someone who I would enjoy getting to know, but not someone who makes me so nervous I think I’m going to be sick when we go out to dinner. I would like to be able to relax, and figure out which place is home.
“Though we have been
apart, we have been together.”
–Wendell Berry, ‘Kentucky River Junction’
On the other hand, I used to wonder how God and I would relate once I was moving about the earth so much. (All His doing.) I’m finding the truth is what it says in Scripture: that He is the same for me even when I don’t feel the same. When I’m in Indiana where I feel a stranger, when I’m in Houghton where I feel creativity, or when I’m in Pennsylvania where I remember my life, He speaks with me the same. I look forward to His walking with me in Australia and one day, at last, to Western Europe.
And I hope someday He gives me a house that I can make into a home that feels home-ish.
“Lord, I am not alone, for You are with me…
I am never lonely or desolate with You and Your smile,
which is better than life!”
– George Mueller