Immigration: Highs and Lows
For almost ten years now, I have either lived as an immigrant or with an immigrant (for the last seven years there have been times when it is both at the same time). There are many interesting aspects of being a foreigner in a foreign land. I love learning new cultures and trying to figure out just how everything works. I love discovering new food or new places. It is fun to meet new people and try to understand their stories or their lives. It is really interesting trying to explain to Taryn why we do what we do and the way we do it. Over the course of the years, what I have found is that living internationally (or having a wife who has lived internationally) has changed who I am and has changed how my family interacts with each.
There are numerous advantages to being an immigrant. However, the funny part about being an immigrant is that I don't often think of myself that way. Living overseas with an American passport, I have never thought of myself as an 'immigrant'. However, there are those moments when living overseas when I am reminded that I don't belong here, that this country is not 'my' country.
The most obvious time this happens is when I have to apply for a visa. We are currently in the visa process again. It is painful. The University has had new rules and regulations put on it because the U.K. government is concerned with students overstaying their visas (a relatively minor problem). The scary aspect for all the international students that I know is when there is a new law or regulation passed that changes immigration in some way, we each have to figure out what that means for us. Can we stay in the country? Do we have to do something new to make sure we aren't breaking any laws? Before Taryn became a citizen there was that constant thought in the back of our mind, 'She can get sent home at any time for any cause.' It was one of the big reasons we moved quickly on her becoming a US citizen. Immigration law is important, but it is a constant reminder that I am just a guest in the country that I have made my home.
I know from my own personal experience and from the experience of talking to friends (many of whom do not have the advantage of holding a passport as powerful as an American one), that living overseas comes with many advantages but also fears and frustrations. Yet, what I also know is that wherever I find myself, I always find churches. In the midst of the great times and hard times, the church reminds me where my citizenship really is located. I am reminded of who I am and to whom I belong.
Living overseas can be unnerving. You can often question your identity. You can wonder if you are truly wanted in the country in which you have made a home. In the midst of this, the church and regular weekly worship reminds us who we are and that our identity is caught up in more than just a passport. In the church we don't divide ourselves up into the groups that fit our natural affinities. I worship with people that aren't in the same stage of life as me, don't have the same background as me, and aren't interested in the same things as me. However, in the church we also don't paint over our differences as if they don't matter. In the church we both unconditionally accept each other regardless of racial, ethnic, national, or whatever else happens to be in our backgrounds. Yet at the same time, we don't pretend like those distinctions don't matter.
I love living as an immigrant. It is hard living as an immigrant. Yet, this reality reminds me daily that whatever country I find myself in, be it Colombia, Australia, America, or the U.K., I am always an immigrant. I am always a stranger in a strange land and the only time I can get a taste of home is when I am in an embassy of Heaven when I am in the church. This is the reality of the Christian life.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. — Philippians 3:20-21