Where do you come from?
It is a question I have never known the answer to – does it mean where I was born? (Africa) My national identity ? Where I live now? I am the child of Scottish and Welsh parents, and thought I was British. Turns out I wasn’t. I travelled on a British passport til I was 18, and then discovered that apparently I had never been entitled to it. (complications of being born in Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then. It subsequently became a non recognised state, and my status was further complicated by my father having been born in India) I had to apply to be a British Subject with an application in the newspaper; (do you know of any reason this person cannot be thus honoured?) only gaining my full citizenship when I married a few years later.
Where do you live? Well although my latter life has been more static, I have moved house 22 times, and lived in 4 countries and 3 continents. I have been a refugee from national turbulence and war, on at least 3 or 4 occasions, leaving at short notice. This somewhat nomadic childhood could have been unsettling, but wasn’t. It gave me a world view, and enhanced my flexibility in pretty well everything. It made me multilingual, not in the conventional sense, ( I was in the back of the queue when the usual skills for that were handed out – French. German, Latin. I tried. (And failed.) ) but perhaps in just as useful a way. It gave me a wanderlust, and I have been a globe trotter ever since, hungry to see more of this beautiful planet.
‘ Home is where you hang your heart’ was the message I received, and made my own. In other words, where ever you are. Bloom where you are planted, whatever the soil or the terrain. I don’t know ‘where I am from’ or really where my earthly ‘home’ is, but it doesn’t bother me unduly. It has dawned on me that I have always been a pilgrim/nomad. I live without borders, or rather I move easily between borders of many kinds, with little or no sense of needing to stay within them. Sometimes I don’t even notice they are there. This can be tricky if there are ‘border guards’ who aren’t happy with you leaving / or coming in, for that matter. If you have a passport stamp from one ‘country’ it can make getting into another which doesn’t see eye to eye with their neighbours, less than comfortable. It can be painful too- being at home in each, and yet they at war with each other. I by-pass both the borders, and the stamps, where I can, and try not to get caught in cross fire.
Now I find myself at theological college. ( After a gargantuan struggle with God over this calling to priesthood business. That was largely about boxes. “Don’t put me in a box God! Especially an Anglican Vicar shaped one!” …mmm.. beginning to see deeper layers still, in that struggle ) A college that prides itself on defying labels and celebrating diversity. Learning within the richness of a Federation, that spans even wider theological territories. Having worshipped and ministered in a whole variety of contexts and churchmanships , I can’t really say I have a spiritual home either. I move very naturally up and down ‘the candle, and have good friends whose homes are at both ends, and all places in between. Being in a college that lets me wander, and doesn’t try to tie me down, is a gift to a person like me. The diversity of the many ‘homes’ I visit, enriches and enlarges me.
“Don’t fence me in” I don’t think I am a rootless cowboy, as the song goes, but I am slowly realising just how strong a theme this has been in my life. Living without borders, and moving easily between all sorts of strata, and perimeters, is very much part of who I am. We are all pilgrims in one sense or other….( mixing up my metaphors) but we are not all called to be nomads. It seems I am, and I can run with that.
My real home, I guess is a Heavenly one, and my citizenship that matters most to me, is also there. ‘Til then I am happy to continue being a nomad. Pitching my tent wherever God takes me.