I showed these words to my husband, when it was just a teary, personal journal entry… I asked his opinion of making it into a blog-post. He said ‘yes, this is an accurate window into where we are at right now’.
I googled the phrases, homesick, culture pain and culture stripping to see how my thoughts fit in to the norm (to check I was going to share relatable feelings and be a good window to this lifestyle rather than just a crazy lady putting her crazy on the internet!) and I found this some good articles. One of them, Beyond Culture Shock, is on the ever-awesome missions conversation website called, A Life Overseas.
So anyway, this is where we are at…. Homesick. It’s not quite a pretty picture though. Sorry.
I am homesick.
I have been homesick and I will be again.
There are varying degrees of homesickness. Some that make you pout your bottom lip like a toddler and declare that nothing will satisfy like the tastes of home, some that linger like a nagging ache for days and some which grip your heart and squeeze it dry.
That last one, the sucky one…
that’s the one I feel today.
It is not a momentary longing for home, a smile and a sigh and a fleeting desire to be in the country of my birth.
It is not the same as momentary thoughts which I had on Australia Day. It is not the partial longing like, ‘wouldn’t it be good’ to celebrate with family and a sausage sandwich right now.
It is well named as a sickness.
It’s a draining and debilitating lump in your throat. It is a nauseating feeling that makes this new culture such a hard thing to swallow again and again… and hard to hunger more of.
I am living in a season where every day, in every moment:
I feel square and this country is round.
Where every moment I am eating rice instead of pasta feels unsatisfying. Where I feel trapped without footpaths and lost without the chance to watch the cricket.
I long for things to be easy.
I long to understand and I am desperate to fit in.
I yearn to laugh readily with friends. To sit on a grassy lawn with friends. To sit there and watch my kids play at the playground, with a takeaway Latte in my hand, able to drift in and out of the group conversation with ease.
I can feel tears welling up in my eyes as I imagine it… and I feel weak with homesickness.
I am yearning after a life that is quick to imagine and easy to relax in.
I want it to be simple. I want to be at home.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not against our new home – it is just longing for the old one.
There is nothing wrong with 2-pronged electrical plugs. There is nothing wrong with bottled water. There is nothing amiss in my friendships here. There is nothing wrong with tropical rain.
I do not hate eating rice.
I do not resent sitting on plastic stools for dinner or only using my right hand to eat.
I like wearing Batik on Fridays and I like speaking a 2nd language.
I love the sun shining and the constant warm weather.
I love neighbours with their doors open and fried bananas made just for sharing.
I appreciate being allowed into the lives of friends, to hear the cries of their hearts, to be told their interesting stories
and wonderful testimonies and vast experiences.
I love it and appreciate it and find it all good.
I praise the God who sent me and I feel secure in the goodness of His plan for my life.
I am privileged to be going out like the feet for Him who IS the good news.
But I still miss, and I still long and I still feel homesick.
because, it is also all round and I feel square and it is not easy to be always interested.
Always learning, always careful, always giving, always on-show, always an example, always different.
I don’t always want to be shown new things or constantly trying to pronounce new words.
I want to fit. I want to blend in, to fade in to a crowd, to have today be simple.
I really long to be at home today.
Oh man, I am homesick.
It is an ache in the pit of my stomach.
It is the feeling of being ‘done’. Things which are not big deals – begin to seem like big deals. I’m so tempted to be done with being calm when the power goes out. Or done with patience and cultural sensitivity. I feel done not-minding when the shops have no stock or the restaurant has no food. I feel done with strangers taking our photos and being openly discussed as a topic of interest.
It is… yeah… this is ugly. It is flesh.
It is culture stress. It is pain.
This is homesickness… it’s not something I feel proud of.
It is a threatening tear when I wake to distinctly local smells, whether they are rich or pungent.
And it is the actual tears on my cheek when I remember beaches and parks and swimming pools and cafes,
when I miss experiencing the seasons, wearing jumpers in winter and roads with lanes and crunchy autumn leaves and clear skies and safe, clean parks and libraries full of books with english words… oh, I miss english words.
There is the homesickness for people (perhaps the easiest to understand since it is relevant cross-cultural, or not).
It is where I would happily eat this food, speak these words, and survive this season if only I could bring everyone that I love along for the ride. It is the conflicting pangs of joy and guilt when I (with grief) celebrate milestones with my kids. It is the heart-breaking way I have to remind them who these wonderful, smiling people are – in these photos from another lifetime. It is knowing the ones I love are gathered together right now, for a birthday, for a lazy Saturday BBQ or to celebrate Christmas. They are gathered and I am missing.
I am the puzzle piece that leaves the picture incomplete. I know they miss me, but they still make up the picture…
I am somewhere else, making my own way or trying to fit in somewhere new.
Somewhere round but my piece is square.
I don’t fear I am forgotten, this is not insecurity. This is trying to ignore the ache to be with the ones I love. I can be warmed in my heart by the smiling faces of a photo and be flooded with grief that they laugh without me… all at the same time.
That is homesickness.
I am so envious of all the fresh in-jokes and the memorable-moments, for I know how sweet they must be. I long for these people because I love these people. It does not negate my desire to be here, it does not undermine my conviction to stay distant.
But it does not stop hurting just because it was my decision.
Not even for a good decision.
It’s the moments I miss.
I grieve them for myself, for my kids, for my parents and siblings.
Yes, I know there is purpose to this parting, and I know that I am right smack bang in the spot God wants me.
But parting sucks –even in a heart of peace.
Even in a place of trust and purpose and faith.
It still sucks.
As loved ones celebrate parties I will not have attended and move into homes that I will not see and hold new family members who I have never held.
I ache for photos that are taken can not have me in them.
For in as much as I am trying to build a new life here – I still see the snapshots of the life that carries on without me.
And that can hurt.
That is homesickness.
Homesickness is normal for someone in cross cultural missions (and apparently in our first year, it is especially so).
It is realistic, and right and permissible… and it sure isn’t going to pass by ignoring the things or the people, that I miss.
I can take moments to grieve and moments to sob and moments to sit on Facebook, stare at photos and sulk…
but I am also learning that to revel in constant homesickness can also be dangerous for my spirit.
It is the temptation to resent the local attempts to make spaghetti bolognaise,
to complain about the loud music or the lack of time-awareness,
to feel superior to the cracking infrastructure and mock the haphazard organisational structure of this developing nation.
It is a readiness to pack my suitcase and flee.
It is eagerness to shut myself in my home, infront of my western TV shows
and love no one as much as I love those I have had to say goodbye to.
It is feeling discontented.
And I am not proud of that.
It is temptation to say to my God and my King that I am not right here – YOU should not have asked this of me, Lord.
It is a powerful temptation for me because it is truthful but it is wrong.
Yes I do not fit in here but God is in this so no, it is no mistake.
He designed me to be square and He created this country as round.
God knew and planned for me to be born into the Aussie culture.
He ordained my birthplace and purposed for me to say, G’day instead of hello. He knew I’d have awesome brothers – so cool that I’d miss them heaps. He knew they’d marry wonderful women that I’d want to be friends with and that they would probably both start their own families in the season of my absence. He knew that I’d like strawberries and playing playdough. He knew I’d have knobbly knees and a terrible spelling… and friends who are having cute babies, that I wont get to meet for years. He authored those days of winter-snuggles-on-the-lounge with hot chocolate. He saw, in His infinite wisdom, the bare feet of my childhood running over bindi patches in the lawn and my fingers making daisy-chains. He knew I’d love walking through parks and summer sun-showers and 5 day Test Match Cricket.
He knew I’d be an Australian; He purposed me to be an Australian…
in the very same way that He planned for me to live as an outsider in this country.
He planned and purposed this process of stripping me, comfort from comfort – to have living in this land an ambassador who holds nothing but truth.
He planned and purposed for me to be removed from my crutches and my fall-back position so that when I fall, my neighbours will see that I fall to my knees.
And honestly, I really need to fall more often.
He planned and purposed for me to come here and have every confidence and expertise (that I secretly propped myself up with) be made nothing in the face of language and cultures. All this, so that when I speak boldly, it is only Christ that I can possibly boast of.
So that I know nothing except that I am sent to the ends of the earth, and that I am accompanied there.
I feel so overwhelmingly… right here… today… in the depths of homesickness
Except the message which saved me,
the love that compels me.
I am learning that maybe I have been taken from home – so that I can have a glimpse of homesickness.
So that when I read of our home in heaven, I have a glimpse at the desperation I should feel just to be there.
So that I can speak with passion about belonging to the family of God and my citizenship of heaven.
Because maybe my ability to share the message is purest when told through honest tears.
Because maybe the beauty inside me is easiest to see when the vessel is most broken.
And man, homesickness makes me feel broken.
And living cross cultures (as different to something being wrong with our host culture itself) is a drawn-out process of breaking.
And I need to be broken.
What responsiblity – that my fumbling, simple words which speak the name of the only WAY and the only Truth, may be the first and only chance some people get to hear Life proclaimed to them.
That the message of home – they will hear from a foreign perspective, from a foreign-looking face with a foreign lifestyle and foreign experiences.
A foreigner who is still being broken,
so that there is more desperation in my life
and more desperate dependence
and more brokenness
So when I say, using slow and simple words like a child
Hatiku sudah dia selamatkan. Hatiku sudah dia bersihkan. Hatiku sudah dia perbaiki. Aku dicintai oleh Tuhan Yesus. Puji Tuhan!
He has saved me. He has made me clean. He has healed my heart. Jesus loves me. Praise the Lord!
Nope, it isn’t close to how locals would say it.
It isn’t the words they would say nor with the accent they would say it in, but it is the message
and it is beautiful
and I can pray to see it become their words, their message and their beauty.
I can pray for these new brothers and sisters of mine who are at home in this land
and the brothers and sisters who live back in my home, Australia.
And I can ask God to keep us broken and constantly breaking
Lord, keep each perpetually and desperately homesick…