Where is your home?
Today is September 11th, 2009, coined “9/11.” It’s what one can now term an infamous date in history and it’s a date that won’t be forgotten. I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing and who I was with September 11th, 2001. I wasn’t even in the U.S.A.
Eight years ago (2001), I moved to Germany with my husband. My dad and my great-aunt were taking a cruise along the Rhine River and we agreed to meet them in Rothenburg, a quaint little Rhineland town, for lunch. I also happened to be in my second month of pregnancy with my first child and besides being severely nauseous, I was excited to tell my dad. We were walking along the streets, window shopping and we ducked into a little store selling collectibles. A man who lived in the apartment above came downstairs and heard us speaking English. He knew there were a lot of Americans in town because of the cruise. He begged Randy to go upstairs with him to see what was on the news. “World Trade Center!” “New York! It’s falling down!” He tried to say in English. He kept tugging on Randy’s sleeve. I was reluctant to let Randy go, because the guy seemed a half step short of an octave, if you know what I mean. Randy assessed the guy and decided he could take him down if push came to shove and told me he’d be right back. My dad and I kept shopping. Then Randy came back down and said he saw video on CNN that showed a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Me and my dad just said “huh?” We couldn’t take it in. It was too surreal with little romanticized medieval shops surrounding us on a narrow cobble-stoned street. Even on the drive back to Dresden later, Randy and I still thought there must be some mistake. I remember keeping the TV tuned to the English CNN for at least a week after we got home. It took a while for the scope of the horror and tragedy to sink in, but once it did, I discovered a very confused feeling…”my entire homeland is hurting, suffering…and I can’t be there.” I felt…disconnected.
9/11 happened fairly early after we moved to Germany. We had only been here 3 1/2 months, but I had already broken ground with something that I would struggle with for the next eight years–feeling culturally homeless. That feeling of disconnectedness I experienced on 9/11 has only compounded over the years. I’ve become intimately familiar with another culture other than my home culture. I speak German when I shop, when I talk to friends, when I worship, I sing in German…I even speak German sometimes to my children. I eat differently than I did when I lived in the U.S., my opinions on many worldly issues have altered since I left my homeland. My views on organized religion have also changed somewhat. Enough so, that on my last trip to the U.S. this summer with my family, I felt so changed that I wondered if I could ever feel like I was truly part of American culture again.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent in the States. I don’t know what it’s like to even have a child in the States…from what I’ve heard, other than the obvious fact that a baby comes out, there are many differences in the whole procedure. I don’t know what’s on TV or the radio or what books are written these days–I’m missing cultural changes in society–and it hurts. More specifically put, does the label “American” fit me anymore?
I know that I could not wear the label “German” either. My German friends here in Dresden joke sometimes that I have been “germanized,” complimenting me, I know, on embracing the German culture. I have many friends here; we love so many things about German culture–some of which we don’t find in American culture. But I will never be able to connect with them about their upbringing. There are so many things I won’t understand about growing up in East Germany, going to German schools or cultural and family traditions–and that hurts, too.
I can relate perfectly to my American friends who grew up in the U.S. as I did, but I cannot relate to many things going on in America today.
I cannot relate to my German friends upbringing at all, but I have embraced their culture to the point of feeling “at home” in Dresden most of the time.
Where is my home? The answer lies neither in the U.S. or Germany. During my on-going contemplation of this dilemma of feeling like a stranger in a strange land–whichever land I’m in–I was working on a lecture for a different topic and I had a vague idea that I wanted to maybe use the text from “This World Is Not My Home” to illustrate a point. As I dug out an old songbook, I read the text. Then the meaning finally hit me.
This World isn’t my home! I can’t tell you what relief washed over me after I truly realized that fact. It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit in perfectly with American culture. It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit in perfectly with German culture. It doesn’t matter if everyone labels me as “crazy” for lobbying for deposits on shopping carts in the U.S. It doesn’t matter if I feel affronted when Germans tell me my kids are too loud. I can let it go. I can let it go. Because my focus is elsewhere. Why was this burden so heavy? Because I was focusing on this world instead of the next. I was so concerned about pleasing two cultures at once–which, by the way, is not humanly possible–that I was forgetting that my true home awaits my attention. I was trying to be all things to all men, but it wasn’t with God’s glory in mind, it was with me in mind. Christ was also a stranger in a strange land, but he focused on sharing God’s message of love and reconciliation to the people in his time and in ours instead of trying to please ideas of what he should be or how he should appear. His treasure were definitely “laid up” in heaven with the Father and not here on earth.
What happened on 9/11 is evidence that Christ’s message of love and reconciliation is desperately needed. It’s a message that transcends all countries and cultures. In a world where Satan is wreaking havoc, it’s a relief to be able to look forward to a beautiful home with the Father, to be able experience and share his message of love and reconciliation…wherever I may live in the meantime.
As a final note, I would like to reference this post on my friend, Caryn’s, blog. This is not what spurred me to write this post today, but it illustrates a beautiful message about this topic.