Sometime last week while driving home from somewhere, I turned to Wayne and said, "Wayne, I am homesick, and I don't even know where I am homesick for."
"Tell me about it," he said. "Today I told someone that I was looking forward to being home... wherever that is."
In the last three years we have lived in three different countries on two separate continents. We have occupied three different residences. We have been part of four different church congregations. I have worked three different jobs. We have undergone at least six different physical location or community-based transition times thanks to internships and study opportunities, and will have to get through at least two more of those transitions in the next ten months.
It has been exciting, certainly -- a whirlwind of exploration and new experiences. Our web of contacts and friends is vast and reaches further than we though possible when we left the rooted foundations of our childhood homes. But it is a very horizontal web, and not particularly vertical. We meet, we relate, we say goodbye and we'll stay in touch. It is like being terribly thirsty and wanting nothing more than to drink a whole glass of water -- but only being able to take a tiny sip before moving on and getting going elsewhere.
Yes, we are in some places and communities for longer stretches than others, but even then, there are reminders written in red pen scrawled across dates on calendars and in agendas, warning us of impending expiration dates for visas and work authorizations. There is always paperwork, and you are guaranteed a sufficiently peevish questioning period when trying to get through a border crossing, trying to get through your front door, closer to that place that you think is probably, for now, home.
We are constantly faced with reminders that we do not belong here -- wherever here is at the time. We have pulled anchor and locked up our house so many times that even in our own country it is easy to forget that our birth certificates declare us to be proper and legal citizens.
To put it plainly, we are not quite sure where we belong.
Lord willing, within the next year we'll hopefully find a place to set our feet for at least a little longer than a ten month period of time. For now, though, we live a nomadic life. When I am curled up on a couch and tired with making new friends, or when I wake up in the morning and am groggily unsure of where I am, I am reminded of the fact that I am a wanderer. And yet, as I look back over the last three years, I am okay with this, because I think it is maybe a little bit good to feel displaced.
Part of me welcomes that deep longing for home -- and not just a home I can decorate for Christmas or dig up a garden around -- but a home that is not of this age. It helps me understand what Peter meant when he addresses his letters to the pilgrims, sojourners, strangers and aliens of the world -- the saints, the followers of Christ, who understand that their real citizenship is in heaven. It is good to recognize that I do not permanently belong here, or anywhere on earth, because this is not the last stop. It is good to enjoy the blessings of homes and families and communities, but it is important to realize that the misleading permanency of a job and a mortgage and a nice garden is not the end of the line. It is important to realize that none of this is here for good; that clinging too tightly to earthly things will result in a dependency that will only disappoint and crush. The fear of and aversion to change will stunt our growth, keeping our focus on the here and now; keeping us from stretching and maturing into more faithful followers of Christ.
Wayne and I can say with great certainty that we do not know what the future holds. It is more than possible that we will settle down and grow some roots, but it could be that we will always be nomads -- and that is hard, but that is also okay, because why should we expect any different? The world is a shifting, changing place -- and only "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." So I will seek a permanence in heaven and dig some roots into the very solid, never changing ground of the King of all kings, and grow where I'm planted, wherever that may be.