Let’s acknowledge that it hurts. At times it is a searing, sharp pain and other times it’s an underlying throb. Either way, something is missing. There was a Sunday before we headed back to Cambodia, that I was standing right next to my dad during worship. I had to sit down, as I was suddenly overwhelmed with loss, the burden of having to say good-bye yet again. All my dad could do was sit down next to me and share his own tears with me, both of us silently acknowledging that this hurt.
For all the verses that promise greater things to those who forsake family and friends, for all the verses that declare His great worth and eternal purpose, we still brush up against deep loss. Even as we proclaim that He is of course worth every pain of good-bye and loss of shared experience, we grieve.
I like to picture Jesus upon my arrival in Heaven. He will cradle my face and trace the tracks that tears have made. He will gently hold my hands, as He recounts each hardship, each good-bye, and each sleepless night. Jesus is not dismissive of our grief. The Bible is full of people who were laden with lament.
Psalm 56:8 (NLT) says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Every step we take is not only observed but also thought worthy of counting and recording. He remembers every detail and recognizes our grief as a real thing. David, the Psalmist, fully trusted God with his future, and still let his tears flow. He knew God was compassionate and was not embarrassed by his own tears.
Gerald Wilson says, “God may not have an actual bottle where our tears are kept or a literal book where sorrows are recorded, but He nonetheless remembers all the things that happen in our lives, including the suffering endured for His sake.”
I have found that it is not helpful to deny the grief of homesickness. If Jesus, in His sovereignty, still considers our grief worthy of being collected, shouldn’t we?
Since our return to the United States in 2014, I have learned that homesickness follows you. While I may be settled near family and do not have to say good-bye, I miss our previous home, Cambodia. Even three years on, I still have moments I grieve the loss of community we had there. I miss the flavors of a certain restaurant. I miss riding through town in the evening on the back of the moto with my husband. I miss dear friends.
I think no matter what side of the ocean I have lived on, the things I grieve the most are attached to the loss of being fully known. No matter where I am, no one can step into every thing and every place that has made me who I am. My family knows me best in my growing up years. There are friends who experienced college with me, teammates who lived and worked closely with me in Mongolia, China, and Cambodia, and now this new community we have in Minnesota is seeking to know our family. At times it feels a bit overwhelming to have so many pieces of you scattered around the world.
Those are the times I let myself sit in my grief for a while, telling God that it hurts. And He, in His mercy, sits down right next to me, and says, “I know. I know.”
Does it encourage you to know God collects every tear? What grief do you need to allow yourself to feel right now? What loss of “home” grieves you the most?