In the last blog post we talked about a universal longing for home. The video below illustrates this from the lives of a number of young people who have grown up across cultures and countries:
The video includes comments about home not being a physical place, but where friends and family are, or as one of the young people on the video says, “Home is where your heart is; where you want to be, full of comfort and family.” But these longings go much deeper than that.
I also talked about my own personal struggle with this and the journey I have been on. Initially growing up in England it would feel like an intense burden of not being understood and isolated.
These feelings of rootlessness and grief are now well documented (see book below). I would not want to give the impression that some how it was all sorted out overnight following my spiritual awakening at age 19. What did happen was that a process started, a seed was planted in my heart, that I have been working out and nurturing for approximately 3 decades now.
C.S. Lewis helped me with his insight about longing and especially my longing for a home:
“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
In other words for me that meant living in India and becoming totally immersed in the language and culture of India could never satisfy. And if I tried to squeeze or force this Indian identity into myself I was at risk of creating an idol that would end up causing even more grief. (For more on idolatry see post Do you work to live or live to work?)
I began to see my true home did not have to be in this world, but would find fulfilment in the consummation of my relationship with Christ at death. I did not have to feel I belonged to any culture because Christ is Lord of all cultures! That realisation had a role to play in even leading to my marriage to Sally, who is from an English background! This tension of what has been called the ‘now but not yet’ – now in terms of faith in Christ satisfying my longing for home at one level and not yet in terms of still yearning for deeper connection and belonging is part of the spiritual journey, that has continued on in my life.
I got a further helpful insight into this when I did an exercise in my early 40s of getting feedback from people who knew me well. One particular friend, who also has had issues of belonging and identity led to a further paradigm shift in my understanding. His simple but profound email response struck me deeply: “Sunil needs to learn to be comfortable with his own uniqueness.”
That was it! Rather than moaning and complaining to myself why I had had the confused cultural upbringing I had, I could embrace it as a gift! What I had been through meant that, like many third culture children and adults, I could have a much deeper and expanded world view and a richer three -dimensional view of the world and life, including a confidence to relate to and interact with many cultures.
I share my experience to help you reflect on how this applies to you or those you know. We live in an increasingly complex and rootless world. (For more on that see here.)
What thoughts and questions does the video and my experience raise for you?
It would be great to have your thoughts and ideas below.