I always used to think some people seriously overcomplicated this question. They would hem and haw and give a long drawn out explanation and I would nod along externally while internally wondering how hard it was to answer a simple question.
And then I moved.
For the last three years, I’ve had a Louisiana license. (Or the last two and a half at least; I tend to procrastinate all DMV visits.) I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve had gumbo and learned how to differentiate between that and étouffée and jambalaya and all the other words they might be making up. We bought a house. You could say it’s official.
But if you ask me where I’m from, the answer won’t be Louisiana. It never really can be. I grew up in the plains of Oklahoma and still find all the trees here to induce slight cases of claustrophobia. I know the biggest football games of the year are Bedlam and the Red River Shootout and have no innate fondness for the SEC. In my mind, being surrounded by hints of Native American culture is the norm and April 19 will always be a date of solemn remembrance. Also, I know that the English language doesn’t recognize “geaux” as an acceptable spelling.
I’m happy here. I have a life here. I’ve made a life here. I plan on being here for a while. But I’m not from here. The things that shaped and molded me for most of my life just aren’t the same.
And that’s ok. At the end of the day, home is where the heart is. Or what you make it. Or something. You can build a life just about anywhere.
But in the bigger, spiritual sense, I’m not from here either. I live on this planet and go about my days and take care of things. I went to school and got a degree. I work and buy food and decorate my house and build a life and sometimes I forget that I’m not really from here.
I forget that my identity isn’t shaped by the external things. It’s always been a struggle. Hopefully I’m not alone in this. I would forget that I wasn’t my grades. That I’m not career choices. That I’m not how nice my house looks or what kind of cook I am. They might tell you things about me but it’s not where I’m from. That’s not who I really am.
Or at least it shouldn’t be.
Who I really am is a child of God. A follower of His. I’m a flawed individual who He gave everything for and now I have the privilege of calling myself a Christian and wearing His name. That’s who I am. Where I’m from is His kingdom. I’m not from there in the sense that I came from there, but that’s where I’m going. That’s where home is.
These are the things that should shape me. Should shape all of us. But I fear that’s not always the case.
The book of Haggai is a fascinating one. It’s unfortunate that the minor prophets don’t always get more love, but I digress. Haggai is composed of two chapters that are primarily focused on the restoration of the temple. After 70 years in captivity, they were finally allowed to return home. Their homes were long gone. The temple was long destroyed. The Babylonians had taken them, the Persians had taken over the Babylonians, and the Israelites never forgot where they were from. They missed their home. They wrote songs, kept parts of their culture intact, and were finally allowed to return back to the place they were from.
At the point the book was written, they had been home about 16 years. They had rebuilt their houses and their lives, but they hadn’t rebuilt the temple. God is eventually fed up, telling them, “My house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (Haggai 1:9).
The Jews were so excited to be home. That’s natural. I breathe a little deeper and smile a little broader every time I cross that Oklahoma state line, and I’m able to visit every few months. They had been gone for 70 years. I can’t imagine the laughter and tears when they finally returned home. They were able to rebuild. To settle. To feel at peace and like all was right with the world.
But they forgot where they were really from.
It doesn’t matter what we build in this life if we forget where we’re from. There’s nothing wrong with making good grades, paying bills, or learning to bake the perfect chocolate chip cookie. But it is wrong to forget the things that matter. Or more specifically, the One that matters.
Where you’re from shapes every part of you. Being a Christian should shape every last part of you. More than just what you wear and the words you use. More than your political party or the movies you do or don’t watch. I can’t see a sunset without thinking of the ones I watched from my backyard. I shouldn’t be able to see another person without thinking of God’s love for them. We should all instinctively feel the urge to be “ambassadors for Christ”. We should remember where we’re from. But just as important, we should want everyone else to be from there as well.
“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.”