After living in our rented townhouse in the Philippines for over nine months, this feels as much home as it ever has. I put up two new pictures today: one in the living room and one in the hallway at the top of the stairs. Alex and I are both adjusted to and fully enjoying our ministry responsibilities and the communities in which we work each day. Yet as we enjoy work here, we are starting to think about leaving this home and preparing to return to our home in the States. We will be taking the first three months in the States to continue seeking God’s direction for our lives; there are many parts of life that are very much up in the air right now, but we know that God will direct, provide, and clarify as we wait on Him.
Something else I know is that as a six foot tall pale white woman, I will never fit in here in Asia. Alex feels like a Foreignoy (meaning Foreigner-Pinoy; Pinoy=Filipino) who fits in better than the average foreigner but who will never truly be Filipino. And after spending a year in Manila, we don’t think we will ever feel completely at home in the States. Living in a different culture does something to a person. The way I’m used to doing things is neither the only nor the best way. In fact, some aspects of culture that I’ve taken for granted aren’t even Biblically sound. I’ve learned so much from Filipinos, who are friendly, gracious, relationship-centered, generous, hard-working, humble, and grateful. Compared to life in the States, some Filipinos have so much less “stuff” yet much more joy. In fact, one of Alex's coworkers just lost everything in a house fire. Yet he continues to show up at the office each say full of joy and his family continues to minister to their community, generously sharing with others whose homes burned down as well.
It is a blatant reminder that stuff doesn’t make us happy, content, or fulfilled. Stuff doesn’t make us more fortunate or more important people. All the stuff we have comes from God, whether we have much or little. And all we have from God we are commanded to share with others. To feed the hungry. To clothe those needing clothes. To look after orphans and widows. To care for the sick. To bring light into darkness.
I feel intense tension in my heart and mind these days. On the one hand, I am planning how I can make our townhouse in the suburbs feel like a home, and I’m looking forward to certain little luxuries that we’ve been without these past few months (Chipotle, Meijer, Goodwill, Marshalls, you get the idea ; ). On the other hand, I am desiring to give away stuff I don’t need. To meet my needs but intentionally sacrifice more of my wants. Because the stuff God has given me is not meant for me, but to be used for Him. Instead of looking out for myself and how I can make my life easier and more comfortable, I want to give generously--of my time, of my interests, of my possessions. I want to remember that Manila is not my home. Chicago is not my home. Earth is not my home. I am a foreigner here, created for my home in heaven.
So this not feeling at home, it’s really a gift. A reminder of the purpose for which I’m created. A gut-check to convict me when I’m investing in the wrong things. Stuff cannot make me feel at home. No place or even people can make me feel at home. Christ is to be my only home.
1 Peter 2:9-11 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”
Father, help me to spend so much time with you that you are my home. To hold what you entrust to me with an open hand and allow you to do all that you desire to do in me, through me, for me, and around me. Place people near me to stretch me, to grow me, and to show me grace. Help me in my thoughts, words, actions, and attitudes, to reflect your love.