I wrote this post in July and just finished it this week. Consider it a celebration of not fitting in.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The first Thai word I learned besides hello and thank you was “farang.” It means ‘foreigner.’ In practice, it means white person. Its not exactly derogatory, but its not exactly a neutral term either. The staff use it all the time, because there’s not really a Thai word for “intern” – thus we are “the farangs.” Thai people are much more friendly to outsiders than people are in many other places, and for that I am so grateful. People do not stare, or catcall, or harass you or try to take advantage of you, (other than price gouging souvenirs, but that’s standard operating procedure all over the world). Generally speaking, Thailand is farang-friendly. The people I work with are warm, loving, accepting, including me and the other interns in everything. I can comfortably get around, customize my coffee order, pay my rent, etc. I consider myself pretty well-adjusted and immersed in Thai culture.
But you never stop being the foreigner.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them
The other day I watched a recording of a performance by women given life sentences without parole in a prison in Pennslyvania. Powerful, raw, unapologetic, each woman, at the end of the video, said her inmate number, her name, where she was from, and a simple statement: This is not my home. Despite the fact that most of these women had spent the majority of their lives in prison and would be there until the day they died, they held their heads high and said, “this is not my home.”
Home is not where we live, it is not where we grew up, it is not where our parents live, it is not where we spent the most time, it is more mysterious than that.
Scripture tells us we are foreigners. We are strangers born into a world we were not made for – so why are we always so surprised when it does not satisfy us? Why is it that we would find the feeling of belonging so fickle and fleeting, except if this is just not where we belong?
“They were longing for a better country”
We hunger and we search and we yearn our whole lives, we look for comfort, for safety, belonging, and yet we never find it completely. We find people and places and roles that make us content, but even moments where we are at totally at ease in our surroundings are fleeting. Why is that? Why is it we never quite fit, even in the places where it seems we were made for? Because we were never really made for them. We were made for a better country.
My favorite part of the Lord’s Prayer is “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” That is our great prayer in all things, isn’t it? Isn’t that what we hunger for? For Earth to be like Heaven. In Hebrews 11, it says even those in the Hall of Faith did not receive what was promised them but only saw it at a distance.
They knew they could not be satisfied on the things of this earth, so they drank deeply of God, the only thing that could satisfy. And in that was their identity and their hope and their salvation.
This is not our home, and we are not meant to feel at home here. Allow yourself to not quite fit into the world around you. And then continue to live by faith, to live by the Lord, even when it seems like this isn’t the world that God wanted, or the world as it should be. When the world isn’t enough, what we need is more of the world, but more of heaven. When faced with feelings of discomfort, of not fitting quite right, of not belonging, of this world just not being quite enough, remember those incarcerated women in Pennsylvania. Hold your head high, because though you may spend the rest of your life here, this is not your home.
God has prepared a better country for you.