There’s a word in Hindi called mooluk, which more or less translates to “home, sweet home.” It’s a word that means far more than just a place of belonging. When someone says, “I’ve found mooluk,” they say it with both joy and pride because they’ve not just found a place to rest, but a space where they can be their full cultural selves and feel understood and loved. I’ve longed for mooluk my whole life. But growing up, I lived without a community to call my own. I was the lone brown-skinned Indian girl in an all-white town. No one in my school, my church, or my neighborhood looked like me or lived life like me, and I felt that keenly.
To be completely honest, sometimes my existence in high school felt like one extended experience of humiliation. The boys in my class had a running joke about the way I looked. One time, as I sat down at a desk, a boy stood up and shouted, “Hey, look at Michelle! She’s so ugly.” Never in my life had I wanted to be more invisible than in that moment. I still remember the way all eyes turned to look at me and an immediate roar of laughter and pointing fingers erupted across the room. Another guy leaned over and said, “You know no one’s ever going to date you, right?” All I could do was hang my shoulders low and sink down as far as I could into my chair, hoping it would swallow me whole.
These were spaces that I would never feel at home. There was no room for a young, brown-skinned, Indian American girl to belong. I was the outsider and the misfit. And sadly, this reality was all I ever knew. I lived that way for so long, I didn’t think another reality was possible. For a long time I convinced myself that there was no place for me to fit in.
But praise be to God that has all changed recently. Thankfully, over the past decade, Christians of color have become more visible in our society. The phenomena of social media have allowed us to collectively raise our voices, center our experiences, and most importantly, find each other. The immediacy of spaces like Facebook and Twitter have helped me begin to connect with people both online and in person just like myself. I’ve discovered a whole world of people with bi-cultural identities, including fellow Asian American women, both in ministry and outside of it. They are people whom I can turn to and say, “You too?” and immediately we know. We know each other’s experiences, pains, and wounds because we’ve had them ourselves. We can walk that journey of healing and restoration together, and even laugh along the way, because that’s what’s possible when you have friends who see you and value you just for who you are.
We are living in strange times right now. In the midst of COVID-19 and quarantine, Asian Americans like myself are also navigating the contagion of racism. Many of us have been insulted, shouted at, spit on, and worse. My personal experiences and those that I’ve witnessed taking place in the Asian community are all triggering the experiences I had growing up. I know all too well what it’s like for someone to point at you and see that look in their eye that screams other. This kind of vitriolic hate and abuse against people of color like myself is what makes me not always feel at home in my country. But in the midst of all this, God in His mercy has also gathered a collective Asian American community for me to journey this difficult road together.
Recently, I attended the Someday Is Here live event in Los Angeles, and I said to myself, “I’ve found mooluk.” It was in that communal space that I experienced for the first time the joy of feeling understood, known, and wanted without having to explain myself. I felt my body relax and my spirit at ease. In that space, I could laugh and be myself and not think twice about every word coming out of my mouth. That is mooluk. It’s what I’ve found with these Asian American women across the country, and I praise God that He’s finally brought me to a place where I can feel like I belong with all of me, and I can know peace.
Sister, you were created with a beautiful cultural identity that reflects God’s image to the world. This is part of who God made us to be. We cannot flourish and thrive and feel at home unless we are able to fully lean into our God-given cultural identities. The way you were made was on purpose. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t believe the lie that your skin color, your beauty, your body, your customs, your views of the world, your expressions and everything that makes you you are unwelcome, less than, or without value. And whether it’s in this life or the next, you can trust that God is working to restore all things, including the joy, beauty, and pride of who we are as cultural beings. Home is coming for all of us. May that truth encourage you today.
We cannot flourish and thrive and feel at home unless we are able to fully lean into our God-given cultural identities. -@drmichellereyes: Click To Tweet