The Far Side of Somewhere

by Elizabeth Trotter on September 21, 2015

I remember my first home service. All those awkward experiences like drinking water from the tap and flushing the toilet with potable water again. Or feeling naked and exposed with no metal security bars on the windows. Or handing payment to cashiers with two hands (like I do in Cambodia) and then being embarrassed, because normal people don’t do that here.

What was up with the laundry smelling nice, all the time? (Come to think of it, what was up with everything smelling nice, all the time?) Could a load of laundry really take a mere two hours to complete, all the way from wash to wear, without having to hang on the line for two or three days in rainy season and still be damp — and smelling of fire and whatever dish the neighbors last cooked over said fire??

I wanted someone to explain to me why Americans felt the need to store hot water in a tank. Seemed like such a waste of energy when you could use a tankless water heater instead, thereby providing a never-ending source of hot water for yourself. (Running out of hot water in the winter is a big problem for me.)

Today I’m facing another home service. I’ll click publish on this blog post and leave my Cambodia home. I’ll board a plane and begin the process of temporarily re-entering my American home. I need to go. It’s time. After a second two-year stint in this country, culture fatigue has hit me hard. I’m worn out from the collective sin patterns of this culture, and I need a break. I love Cambodia, and I sometimes need a break from Cambodia.

Still, there’s nothing like preparing to go on home service for bringing on an identity crisis. Who am I, and where do I belong? I live in this city and traverse its Asian streets, all without quite belonging to them. Yet I don’t quite belong to the immaculately clean American streets I’ll soon be walking, either. Belonging is a slippery feeling for a global nomad. It can be everywhere, and it can be nowhere, all at the same time.

Nevertheless, when I walk in the door of my parents’ house tomorrow, I know I will once more experience the words of Bernard Cook, words that hung on the walls of every one of my childhood homes: “We need to have people who mean something to us; people to whom we can turn, knowing that being with them is coming home.” Growing up in a military family, I always knew Home was with my family. Home is with the people I love.

And as a Christian, I know Home is with God Himself. I love these words from Christine Hoover’s book From Good to Grace: “With Christ as my city, I can traipse all over the globe and never once not be at home. Because I dwell in His grace.” Christine knows a bit about this unmoored feeling of mine. She and her husband didn’t cross country borders when they moved to Virginia to church plant, but in leaving their home state of Texas to follow God’s leading, they certainly crossed the kind of deep cultural divide that make you wonder where in the world you belong.

I want Christ to be my city. I want to dwell in Him. The best part about finding home and belonging in Him is that He goes with me wherever I go. Psalm 139 is a gift to us global nomads in this regard. In verses 7 through 10, the Psalmist asks:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

When I moved to Cambodia nearly four years ago, I traveled west across the ocean on a morning flight, literally rising on the wings of the dawn. And when I stepped off the plane in Phnom Penh, I found that not only had God flown the skies with me, but that He was already here in this place — for I cannot flee from His presence. Even on the far side of the sea, He holds me fast. And no matter how deep the depths of my life, I know He is with me.

From now on, wherever I go and no matter which side of the sea I settle on, I will always be on the far side of somewhere I love. There is just no getting around that. But how precious of God to include David’s words in His Word. David could not have known about jet propulsion when he penned Psalm 139, but thousands of years later, his words are a balm to the global nomad’s soul. For we rise on the wings of the dawn, and we settle on the far side of the sea, and because God lives in us, we can find Home in every place He has made.

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About Elizabeth Trotter

Elizabeth loves life in Southeast Asia, something she never imagined was possible. Before moving to Asia with her husband and four children in 2012, Elizabeth worked in youth ministry for ten years. She and her husband recently published Serving Well: Help for the Wannabe, Newbie, or Weary Cross-cultural Christian Worker. Find her on the web at www.trotters41.com.

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