Christmas Confessions of a Third-Culture-Kid

Christmas wont be homeChristmas is painful sometimes.

A significant part of the problem is being unable 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 25-year excursion of this world, I’ve spent developmental periods of my life in multiple countries apart from my place of birth.

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 called the “Green Card”, home, since then, has been the United States.

Over the span of the last 6 years, I’ve gypsied from Maryland to Michigan, to Beirut, to Muscat, to Sri Lanka, and then back to Michigan, and will eventually head out to California.

“Where is home for you?”

If you are born and raised in your 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 state verbatim the previous paragraph supplemented by a geography lesson outlining the nautical distance between Sri Lanka and India and an anthropology lesson clarifying that Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and Tamil Tiger terrorists from Sri Lanka are NOT synonymous concepts.

Home, therefore, is not where my heart is.

It is where my foot is.

Home is where I make it to be.

Home is everywhere. And home is nowhere.

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 was 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 California spending Christmas with the ever hospitable family of my significant other. At this time I can’t help but remember the many families who have adopted me in like manner by giving a bed to sleep on, 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 home where I will no longer be concerned with my next flight away.
A home where I no longer 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.
A home that is not tampered by the vicissitudes of life nor the tyranny of time.
A home whose builder and maker is God.

I won’t be home for Christmas.

For now.

Are you a Third-Culture Kid? If so How do you deal with this concept of home especially during holidays? Leave a comment below!

What I Learnt From Raising $7000 Over 7 Days

old man

Jim* is financially cleared for this semester.

Jim’s bank account is out of the negatives.

Jim can register for next semester’s classes.

Jim won’t be kicked out of his apartment.

Jim has a bed.

A few weeks ago, this was not the case. But through a series of fortunate, yet intentional, events, few friends from my seminary (Joseph McCarty, Robert Dabney Jr, Ashton McFall ) and I were able to raise about $7100 in just over 7 days through a GoFundMe page which opened new possibilities for Jim.

Here are 4 life-changing truths that I’ve gathered from this experience.

1) Leadership is a conversation

Andy Stanley said it well:

“Leadership is not about getting things done. It’s about getting things done through other people.”

I’d like to add that it’s also getting things done with other people. The initial and only plan was to talk to Jim after our class and contribute whatever I could from my personal resources. I was surprised to see 3 other classmates who stuck around after class, and one of them had initiated conversation with Jim even before I did.

To make the long story short, based on what Jim needed, we got our heads together, came up with a plan of action, got on a texting group chat, delegated responsibilities, and the rest was history.

All four of us were united in one purpose: Help Jim.

A united vision coupled with a mutual respect and appreciation for each other allowed us to communicate with each other effectively and implement what we’d planned efficiently.

2) Orthodoxy is not enough

I am currently preparing for a profession which requires me to uphold orthodoxy to the highest level.

I wholeheartedly support our beliefs and what we stand for. But here’s what this experience reminded me:

Orthodoxy is not enough.

Knowing right principles, understanding right principles, and teaching right principles are simply not enough if they don’t lead to right behavior.

Because there’s a difference in being righteous and right-ish.

The existential crisis of learning how to present the gospel in an effective way to others while effectively neglecting to reveal it to a brother seated next to me highly disturbed me. I had to do something and I’m glad that there were others who felt the same way.

I think Dwight Nelson, Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church, summed it up well:

Orthodoxy without orthoproxy is pointless.

3) Money is not everything

As I mused with a friend who helped move the furniture to Jim’s house, we realized that it’s not Jim who got the most out of the experience.

It was us.

All of us knew Jim as someone always dressed with a smile and filled with joy. He was content.

What we didn’t know was that he had that attitude even prior to us knowing about his predicament! The man was smiling even when he had no bed to sleep on, no money in his bank account, and entirely uncertain about the future of his family.

Interacting with people in many under-developed countries and contexts has led me to believe that some of the happiest people are those who have little to no possessions. They seem to find their joy not in accoutrements of luxury nor in positions of honor but in the experiences shared with those they love.

Jim’s eyes would light up when he talked about his family. They would light up even more when he talked about his God.

Yes, the money paid for more than his needs. But what Jim was grateful for the most was for the friendship of his colleagues. He knew that money can come and go, but the friendships developed and the experiences shared during this time will last a lifetime and even beyond.

4) Choice is a power

The same ‘desire centers’ which fired up when I heard about the Syrian Refugee crises, the Paris Attacks or the San Bernardino shooting fired up when I learned about Jim’s situation.

We wanted to do something. Emphasis on “wanted.”

However, I soon realized that wanting to do something and choosing to do something are entirely different things.

The desire to act and deciding to act are two things.

In our case, we decided to act. Jim’s life changed when we chose to ask him a single question:

what do you need?”

After he responded, each one chose to do their part which resulted in Jim paying off his credit card debt, paying off his financial deficit for his schooling, and getting furniture in his apartment.

If we merely stopped at the desiring, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of that.

The power of choice is easily undervalued, underestimated, and, in many cases, under-utilized.

For Jim, a single choice took him from a desperate situation to a promising one.

For us, that same choice took us from apathy to empathy.

*not his real name.