For the last four years, I’ve been a sojourner in foreign lands – Lebanon, Jordan and now Iraq. I’ve grown used to hearing Arabic and eating Middle Eastern food. I’ve even grown used to different cultural traits and reactions. I love this country and its people. I share many of their loves and am working together with them toward shared goals. I belong here. And yet, at the same time, I remain, and always will be, a foreigner. I think, feel and perceive things differently due to my different background.
I have felt the same way in Lebanon, Jordan and everywhere I’ve been. I go, I fall in love with the country and the people, I feel at home even though I’m away from home, I miss it after I leave… and yet, I remain a foreigner, someone passing through for a greater or lesser period of time… someone who is a part of life, but doesn’t completely belong there.
Ironically, over the past several years, I have come to even feel this way about my own country, the U.S. I love my country, and I relax when I visit the U.S. in a way that I never can outside of it. And yet, over time, I find myself more and more distanced from my country, not only in location, but also in my way of being. Little by little, I’ve developed a different perspective from being overseas – I’ve learned new things, discovered new ways of thinking about life and its challenges, and, in the process, have lost “sync” with my own culture. So, even when I’m in the U.S., I now feel a deep love and appreciation for certain aspects of my country, and I definitely feel at home, but at the same time, don’t feel that I COMPLETELY belong…
I haven’t, however, lost a sense of identity. Far from it. I believe my understanding of my identity has strengthened considerably. But instead of identifying myself with a country, nationality or culture, I have come to identify myself with my faith and my family. No matter where I am, the values, traditions and lifestyle my husband and I have established for our family remains the same. And, no matter where I am, I am able to grow in my faith.
As I began thinking about my experience as a foreigner in different countries, it occurred to me that while not too many other families have lived a traveling lifestyle similar to ours, the experience we’ve had is a reflection of what all Christians experience in daily life. All of us are sojourners in a foreign land. We fall in love with this earth and the temporary communities we live in. We feel at home in this world, and yet, there is something, a tiny whisper in our heart, a yearning that reminds us we don’t belong here… we were made for somewhere else.
I hope all of us remember from time to time that this life is just a journey, a temporary home where we can catch glimpses of God’s greatness, learn from the people we live with, contribute whatever we can to the community of mankind as we await the day when we will finally travel into our true homeland, where we will no longer be foreigners, but sons and daughters in the eternal home of our Heavenly Father.