So often when I write something, the title and introductions are the last thing I write. I have been like that since I was writing papers in high school. My blogposts are no different. I’ll give them a working title in order to be able to identify the posts in my drafts folder, but don’t really give thought to the title until I’m done writing. This post is no different I gave this post a working title of “Leaving,” then decided “Returning” might be more apt. The dilema highlights an interesting internal struggle that a lot of people who live overseas deal with at one point or another
In this instance of leaving and returning, my struggle really isn’t with either. It’s with the idea of home. Am I leaving home or returning home? It seems like I’m splitting hairs, but the question in some form or fashion comes up more than any other. Where do you feel more at home? Prague or Iowa? When do you go back home? When is the next time you will be home? Why would you say Prague is your home? Why would you say Iowa is your home?
I am leaving a place that I have called home for most of my life, namely the first 19 years of it and returning to a place where I have lived and worked for nearly the last five years, leaving family and friends who have known me my entire life and returning to friends who have become family because of our life and work together.
Leaving is never easy. Returning is always joyous. The only reason I am thankful for the long travel time is so I can have some time between the sadness of departure and the joy of returning. And it is the same whether I am leaving Iowa or leaving Prague.
It may seem trivial but the question is a source of no small amount of internal conflict for a lot of people who spend significant time in more than one culture. The issue isn’t necessarily that we feel at home in our current contexts, but it’s that we don’t feel at home when we return to our original contexts. The Iowa that I came back to does not feel like the Iowa that I left. Which is understandable.
This idea of home is something that everybody strives for at some level. Home drives everything from the real estate market to the import/export market. We spend a lot of time and money trying to make things “homey.” In the expat community here in Prague, that is especially true. There is an entire market niche here in Prague that caters to expats who want tastes of home. You can get a $3 box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Seriously. There are stores here that import American foods as a specialty item. If I could find some way to organize a Chick-Fil-A sauce smuggling ring, I would be a very rich man.
One of my comforts in the midst of this chaos is found in the Bible. The Bible routinely refers to us believers as sojourners, travelers, temporary residents, and foreignors. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) sums it up best when it says, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” In the verses that follow, there is a call to continue to praise God and proclaim his name, do good and share with those in need, and pray. And those are my goals and focus going forward.
Note, these pictures are side by sides of similar contexts, both in Iowa and in Prague, in an attempt to compare the two.