I came to America as the “trailing spouse” of an expatriate. My husband and I were newlyweds. We had just set up our new home together in Hyderabad, India. At that time, we didn’t know that it would be the first of many homes (nine, to be precise) that we would set up and set aside, as we moved from place to place over the next ten years.
My marriage and my immigrant experience are intertwined. I cannot talk about my marriage without mentioning how it was shaped by my experience as an immigrant. As I was learning how to be a wife, I was also learning how to live in a foreign country. These two parts of me—wife and immigrant—clashed and meshed simultaneously, shaping me and my marriage.
When my husband and I came to America, we had left behind not only our new apartment, but also precious belongings–family ties and friendships. There was nothing familiar in America to call our own, except each other. And that had to be enough. My husband was also my mother, father, sister, best friend, aunt, uncle and neighbor. And I was, literally, his only family.
We had two projects to tackle together—start a family and be good immigrants.
Our experience as migrants drew us closer to each other. Who could best understand me and what I’ve left behind except for my husband? Who else, besides me, was witness to my husband’s past life as a native and his present life as a foreigner? There was so much change and motion in our lives that we relied on each other for security and surety. We became better communicators and worked well as a team in tackling the challenges faced as immigrants.
But the road was not all rosy. I went through times of feeling lonely to the point where my husband’s love and company alone were not enough. I longed for the familiar sights and sounds of my homeland and for the familiar faces and voices of my family and friends. My husband, on the other hand, had to deal with his own issues, guilt being one of them. He felt the weight of my sacrifice for his career to flourish. We both knew that our marriage could not be the answer to all our problems.
But this is the best part of our story. Our trials brought us to our knees. My husband and I had to go back to our roots to understand how we could flourish, as a couple and as immigrants. And our roots ran deep into our faith, our faith in the one true God. We had to face the fundamental questions of who we were, what was our purpose, and why we were put on this journey together. Our search for answers and the exploration of our Biblical identity was a journey in itself.
We realized that we were so wrong in clinging to each other when only God could satisfy our basic needs of love, acceptance, security, and forgiveness. And He alone was worthy of being the source and object of our faith and trust. Yes, as immigrants we were eager to assimilate and re-settle. But, as “strangers in a strange land” (Hebrews 11:13 and 1 Pet 2:11), as “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) on earth, we needed a heavenly perspective.
God has chosen my husband and I to be sojourners on this earth together as a married couple.
It does not matter where we live. If home is where the heart is, then our home is with Jesus. We may move again and again, to distant places and foreign lands. But Jesus is our rock. On Him, we aspire to build many more years of togetherness.