A Homesick Heart
It happens to me in unexpected moments. I’m standing on the seashore, toes digging into the wet sand, arms wrapped about my waist, eyes searching as far as they can see out to the horizon. I’m content. I’m hopeful. I’m happy. And then it happens. A pang runs through my heart and it hurts. Sadness? Loneliness? Longing? Something.
This is not the only time such an emotion has hit me. While enjoying a sunset, a flock of geese flies by overhead and my heart tumbles from peace to unsettledness. Wheeling a full grocery cart through the aisles at the market, a wave of nostalgic longing washes over me. On a Christmas evening, settled on the couch in front of the lit tree, satiated with celebration, I discover a corner of my heart turned away from the day’s merriment, inward toward something I can’t quite access.
My mother-in-law used to dream of going “home.” Leaning back in her favorite glider, arthritic knees relieved by the ottoman in front of her, gnarled hands working over each other, cheeks curtained into a sweet smile, Rosie would sigh, “Ah…when the good Lord sees fit, I’ll be going home.” By home, she meant heaven.
When I was younger, I thought such an attitude was bonkers. Who would want to go home to heaven when there was so much living to do here? I couldn’t wait for my first date, for prom, for marriage and a career and children! Going home would mean missing out on here! In fact, whenever I pondered a premature death, I’d whisper, “Not yet!” I didn’t want to head heavenward without experiencing my first house, a car of my own or traveling to another country. Then once I was a mom, there was NO WAY I could fathom leaving my little darlings for more than a few hours at a time. “Here” seemed to be everything.
Now? Been there. Done that. All of it and more. Something in my heart is facing the reality of there’s more than “here.”
I think about my unsettled moments on the seashore, at the sunset, in the grocery store, on a Christmas evening, and Rosie’s words come back to me. Perhaps I’m homesick for something more than here. It seems to me that Rosie longed for home because she was done with here. Why do I relate so - or even at all? I don’t feel done with here in that way. I’m just kinda old. Most of my loved ones are still on the planet with me. My body is making no major uprisings at the moment. My grandchildren still need me in some important ways.
I think it’s my heart that’s different. As wonderful as life here can be, living life here can make us homesick for a home beyond here. It’s as if the soul of us can’t be contained or expressed or completed in the home we make within sturdy walls, surrounded by a tidy yard and a boundary fence, decorated in chintz or plaid or khaki or mid-century modern. There’s an aspect beyond here that beckons us to explore and grow and develop.
In his paraphrase of scripture, The Message, Pastor Eugene Peterson interpreted John 15:4 this way, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
Hmmm. I think the thing is that over the years, God has become more and more my true home. He is the peace I lean into as I sleep in my bed. He is the certainty through which I steer my car to and from appointments. He is the hope I cling to when family or friends face confusion, fear and even tragedy. Knowing that makes me more content here, and yet also, homesick for something beyond here.
Elisa Morgan's latest book is now available - Christmas Changes Everything. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include You Are Not Alone, When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, and Hello, Beauty Full. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.