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 in Hyderabad, India, when Simon had to work on a project in the US. We locked up our Indian apartment and moved into another one, thousands of miles away in Southern California. We didn’t know then that it would be the first of many homes that we would set up and set aside, as we moved from place to place over the next thirteen years.
11 homes. 7 cities. 2 countries.
My marriage and my immigrant experience are intertwined. I cannot talk about my marriage without mentioning how it was shaped by my experience as a foreigner. As I was learning how to be a wife, I was also learning how to live in a new country. These two parts of me—wife and immigrant—clashed and meshed simultaneously, shaping me and my marriage.
When Simon and I arrived in the US, we brought with us two bags of clothes. We had left behind everything else–our people and culture. There was nothing familiar in America to call our own, except each other. And that had to be enough.
We had two projects to tackle together—start a family and resettle in a new country.
Our experience as migrants drew us closer to each other. My husband was also my mother, father, sister, best friend, aunt, uncle and neighbor. And I was, literally, his only family. Who could best understand me and what I had 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 learned to work as a team in tackling the challenges faced as immigrants.
But the road was not all rosy. Sometimes my loneliness got so intense that my husband’s companionship was not enough to make me feel loved and validated. 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. Simon 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 how naïve we were in clinging to each other when only God could satisfy our basic needs for love, belonging, and rootedness. And He alone was worthy of being the source and object of our faith and hope.
Yes, as immigrants we were eager to assimilate and re-settle. But, we were also “strangers in a strange land” (Hebrews 11:13 and 1 Pet 2:11), and “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20). How could we ever feel at home in this world?
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.
(This is an updated version of a blog post that was published on June 27th, 2018).