Christmas is painful sometimes.
This is the third year that I have spent Christmas away from my home. And trust me, it doesn’t get better.
A significant part of the problem is because I haven’t been able to identify what “home” really is.
Home is where the heart is, people say. But what if my heart is in many different places? Does that mean I have multiple homes? If so, then is there a place out of all these homes to really call home?
I am what they call a Third-Culture Kid (TCK). In short, this means that during my 23 year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth ( which happens to be Sri Lanka aka the most beautiful country in the world ). Due to the high mobility shared by fellow TCK’s across the globe, home is characterized by a state of intermittence – it is fluid and in a constant state of flux.
I am a case in point.
For the first 12 years of my life, home was the verdant city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. Then till I was 19, the metropolis of Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman was home. Thanks to Uncle Sam and his provisional invite affectionately known as the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States. Over the span of the last 5 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, Lebanon, and then back to Michigan.
Where is home?
For those born and raised in the country of birth, the answer to that question would be pointedly singular and specific. But if you were to ask me that question, I’d systematically state the previous paragraph almost verbatim usually coupled with a geography lesson clearly outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India (proving I’m Sri Lankan and not Indian or any other South-East brown fellow ) as well as an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts ( proving I’m not a terrorist).
Home, therefore, is not where my heart is. It is where my foot is. Home is everywhere. It is ubiquitous.
Christmas, unlike any other season, unabashedly and unapologetically reminds me of home. This morning, however, as I was reflecting on the Christmas story detailed in the Bible, I was refreshed to find that my sentiments regarding home found clarity and purpose in the birth of the ultimate TCK – Jesus Christ.
God became flesh. Divinity enshrouded in humanity. The One who knew no time was born in it. If there was anyone in history who knew the pains of being away from home it was Jesus. While families across the globe are reunited with their loved ones during this joyous season, the Reason for the season was separated from his family, not just during his birth but for the rest of his life. But this separation was not a complete separation. Jesus, through his life, exemplified the life of a human being who was in constant communion to his Heavenly Father. Even though there was a physical separation, Jesus felt the closeness of his heavenly home emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.
As I write this, I’m in sunny California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my girlfriend. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed (or the couch) to sleep, food to eat, and a place to call home. The warmth and sense of belonging I have received in these places have undeniably alleviated the pain of distance. They have taught me that while I may be physically away from those places I call home, I am and forever will be connected to them in my heart.
This Christmas I’m thankful for the many homes the Lord has provided for me during the course of my life. I truly have pieces of my heart in each of those places. I’m also thankful that even though I may be seas away from my family, I am but a prayer away from God. But above all, I thank God for the promise of a permanent home. A place that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time. A place to call my own. This Christmas I’m reminded that there is indeed such a place. A home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away. A home where I don’t need to validate my identity. A home where I don’t have to live off of my suitcase. A home of perpetual joy, light, and happiness made actual by a humble birth in the home of animals. A home whose builder and maker is God.
I won’t be home for Christmas.
Kevin Wilson is the Religious Vice-President of the Andrews University Student Association. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and hopes to serve in pastoral ministry. He loves curry, Badminton, and reads for leisure when he isn’t under the books studying for his next exam.