Once you leave home it doesn’t take long to realize that homesickness can literally make you ill. Some days I walk around with a small level of homesickness that clings to my heart but there are other days where the weight of grief is heavier and I feel it in my chest, constricting my breath, my body fatigued.
I long for home.
Because cross-cultural living has been a part of my life for so long I can’t even pinpoint this place I long for. I am 35 years old. I have moved 26 times between 4 countries. And therein lies the problem.
There is no PLACE that I long to be. There is no place where I fully belong, there is no place where I am fully known, there is no place where I am fully understood. Instead, every place is worth missing and regardless of what country I am in or who I am with, I am still longing for someplace or someone special. Homesickness follows me everywhere.
I spent years trying to suppress this sickness that seems to trail behind me. Maybe if I dig roots deep enough? Maybe if I let go of the past? Maybe if I just don’t need anyone? Maybe then, the grip of loss will lessen on my soul and I will be able to move forward with life. Stable and free from grief.
But I’ve found that I do myself a disservice by diminishing and denying this longing I have. Because within this pain there is something to be taught, there is something to be learned and something to be grown. In the denial of the pain there is the loss of the gift found within it.
There are those who do not know the depth of homesickness that we can have. They belong where they are, as God has chosen them to be, and yet he has given to us a different experience. One that holds a deep, spiritual truth that we can uniquely understand. We are not of this world. In fact, we are aliens, walking in it and yet not of it.
If I close my eyes for a moment and ruminate on those words, I can pull up images of real experiences that capture those truths. I’m sure we all do. We KNOW what that means. Not because we have heard a story or been given an example but we have LIVED it. We have FELT it. We KNOW it. And in that knowledge, we gain a piece of Christ Jesus himself, and an understanding of our place in this world. After all, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)
This longing and homesickness we carry is a grace. It is a gift. As God strips away, little by little, the people and places and languages that have formed our identity, he gives us himself in their place. Our longing is a revelation of need that only God can truly fill.
Romans 5:3-5 states, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
In the end this suffering, because it is indeed a suffering, will produce within us a hope as we allow it to do its intended work. The graciousness and preciousness of God is that he has not left us to figure it out on our own but he has poured out his love and given us a piece of himself. The Holy Spirit, indwelling within us, is a piece of our eternal home. We fully belong in him. We are fully known by him. We are fully understood.
My homesickness remains because the loss is real. But framed in light of what I know of God my grief can be layered in hope. Hope that longing has purpose. Hope that God will be glorified. Hope that one day soon, I will stand before my savior, he will wipe away the tears I have cried and he will call me his.
I will be home.
What has being ‘homeless’ taught you about yourself? How has God shown himself within your longings?
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