Well, I haven’t done this in a while, but I think it’s about time to begin my journey writing again. It begins as a story. (original post 6-15-2011, updated 5-22-12)
Lately I’ve been having to face head-on my identity. How am I facing my identity? Well, it begins as a little boy in Africa. I grew up knowing life a few years in the States, and then moving to Niamey, Niger. I just went with the flow, and doing that has become a major part of who I’ve become in the past 15 years. I grew up in a country that was poor, hot, and a little boy’s paradise. I played outside probably too much, realizing now my piano teacher and mom were right – I’ll regret not learning later in life. Sure do! But hey, it’s a small regret that one day may be able to be remedied. After spending my childhood in Niger, I again moved going with the flow back to the States. I made new friends by saying I was from Africa, and of course I got those funny questions about lions, tigers, and bears (really). My last major move (never been in the same place for longer than 4 years) was here, in Toccoa. My past 4 years were great and blessed, enabling me to build wonderful friendships and tasting of the goodness of God. This past semester, I realized for the first time that a period in my life was coming to an end – and for a brief moment I almost went into a psychotic meltdown. All the other times before, I didn’t think about the implications of my life on the move. This time, I did. It scared me. I remembered the many nights back in the States that I simply missed my friends from Africa. I couldn’t get back to them, at that moment, when I wanted and needed them. I was in another country, alone in essence. The thought of that happening again to me, on a much much grander scale flashed my heart with searing fear and pain. Then I remembered something, the many many times God had blessed me throughout those times on the move. There is no way I would be blessed with so many good relationships had it not been for this life, nor the many life experiences that many cannot ever have in their own lifetime. I’m just twenty one, and God has richly blessed me. I began to get excited about change like I used to, and moving to build new relationships sounded like a good idea.
Then things started occurring throughout the semester that made me feel isolated, or at least reminded me that I still was. Sometimes they were good events, and sometimes they were painful. Sometimes they were a part of every day life that no one would notice, but they rung like a painful gong in my head telling me I was alone. Growing up as a MK or TCK you have your identity as one, and with fellow MKs or TCKs you fit with best. I had this identity from my childhood, having ingrained in my blood the sands of West Africa. Then I moved back to the states, and over the past 10 years I’ve had to accept another identity – as a (somewhat) normal citizen of a strange yet familiar land. It’s culture in parts had become a part of who I am as well. Coming to college, my identities had their separate and specific parts in my life. God blessed me richly to live with my best friend from Africa’s family to spend time with them again – enjoying some years of fun lost to time as well as saving money. Then, I moved into the dorms to experience life as a dorm kid on campus where I roomed my best friend who’s been there for me since. I couldn’t have asked for more than the experiences I had my freshman year and in coming years with my friends that I made on campus. I met my best friends there, and I treasure our fun and crazy memories greatly. My life on Campus was also richly blessed, even through trials and tribulations. They were the ones who stuck by my side and encouraged me through them all.
After that, I was extremely blessed as well to move into Paradise Mountain, a home for Mks and TCKs. Moving in saved vast amounts of money, money I simply didn’t have to keep attending school. It also built many crucial relationships. Paradise has simply been a place of blessing, which is how God has intended our homes. For those that know about Paradise, we live in two houses perched on a hill with a beautiful lawn and big trees accenting the landscape. All of it, our food, bills, everything – is provided by God alone. Everything is paid off, and we live off of what God provides. And He richly does. It isn’t simply financially, but in every way in our houses. I can’t say enough how blessed I’ve been to spend the past three years in this place from where I currently type this story, again even through trials and tribulations. This was the home for my family that helped me through them.
Even though I’ve lived here for a while now, I still don’t quite fit in. I’ve been in the States long enough that the freshness of my home country has left me. It’s still in my bones, but has been gone from my lungs for some years. It wasn’t just Paradise where I didn’t completely fit in, it was with everyone on campus as well. Since I had grown up in a different country, I was still different – in action and in thinking. There are other areas in my life where a similar story of Paradise and Campus could be told, but it’s best to keep this short and sweet for the reader. There have been many situations throughout the course of my life that have reminded me that I never quite fit in no matter where I go. I’m able to fit in enough to build amazing relationships, but I still feel isolated like I don’t belong despite them. I thought very few people would understand what I’ve been talking about until that roommate and best friend whom you met earlier in the story talked to me. He said he’s felt the same way, living a similar life to mine. He put a different spin on our story of not quite fitting in. It goes much deeper than relationships and how I feel – like I’m never quite home, but it’s always somewhere else.
It’s true, I am never at home. That’s how he put it. Home is not anywhere I’ve been, or anywhere I’m going. Sure, places can look and seem like it. Those are just glimpses of my real home and the blessings that God intends to lavish upon me once I finally arrive home. Thankfully, I won’t be alone in this house, and I’ll finally feel completely like I belong and I’m actually supposed to be there. It’s a place that’s designed for me, and for you. For the weary traveler and the valiant warrior. For the destitute and rich. For those with broken bodies and for the athlete. For those who surrendered their lives knowing One who was greater than they ever could be came to our homes offering us hope of a better One. Knowing not only will He provide a better place and dwelling for us to live, but also a new kind of renovation that some don’t think about – especially at my age and younger. That is the hope of new beautiful finished glorified temples in which our Savior dwelt when we lived here. It’s already done, somewhere in the distant or near future, because such are the promises of God. They are done, as soon as He spoke those promises to us. We in the meantime have to rely on Him and trust Him that His word is sure as we wait for those promises to be true in our lives. That is the greatest hope that can’t be taken away that we have. We are strangers in alien lands, with our future secured only by the God who has made our home with Him. As I embark on the next phase of my life — Lord-willing my roughly semester long internship in Niger, I look forward with excitement to see what God has for me. If I’ve been this richly blessed and taken care of all these years, I know He can continue to do so in my life and in yours.
I can now update this story, after I’ve been back in my home country. I dream about it without even trying or dwelling upon it the night before. I randomly and suddenly end up there, most of the time humourously. I’ll have gotten there realizing the next day I have work, or I’d forgotten my toothbrush. Even my dreams know the longing in my heart that has been refreshed by the dusty roads of Niger. I’d forgotten that I’d written that the sands of Africa were in my bones. I tried to explain this in French to Africans, and they understood after they helped me with my limited vocabulary. God had brought me full circle in a way, enabling me to reconnect with my childhood and my past. It was no longer a long lost tendril of memory, but instead a rejuvenated glistening chain to the continent. Home as it was, I can still say that my feelings remain the same for me. I encountered a big transition at the end of my internship, with the knowledge that the journey that I was about to embark on was in the context of His goodness. He had blessed me incredibly during my internship, and knowing that I needn’t fear what was to come.
I’ve ended up in a town where I least expected, but after surrendering my will and gaining the attitude of joyful acceptance of wherever He desired me to be I’ve been living back in my hometown with my family. I had other plans, but God saw through His and not mine. I’ve been building relationships, but also have had some reticent fears and apprehensions of what I’ve faced before. After going through so much transition in the past year, I’ve wondered if all the relationships I’ve built across the world were vanity. Were they worth the effort I put into them if I was to leave after 4 years, a year, 7 weeks? I’ve never been in one place longer than four years. Is it worth building those relationships just to leave them? For one who’s identity and life is one on the move, this is an important question to ask and deal with. I have decided they are. Each relationship has been unique. From my Nigerien guard friends to my missionary friends in Niger, to my college friends, to my highschool friends and friends from my childhood in Niger, and now the ones I’m building here at work and at church, each relationship has blessed me. Who am I to be resentful of such blessings? Sure, it does cause me varying amounts of pain to leave them, but I also know that I have more homes and more places in which I am welcome when I return. Who can travel any number of places in this country and in the world and be welcomed? I am richly blessed!
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
— Ephesians 2:10-22