Have you ever been away for a time and felt that strange, growing longing to return home? Since I was in my early teens this has been a common, constant, and lingering sense – a desire to be home, to finally arrive, to feel the safety, and let my guard down. More difficult to understand is the feeling upon arriving to my “home” and finding that the restlessness remains, sometimes even stronger than before.
I’ve come to value this wanderer’s journey as a privilege, although I have not always thought this way. Having gone from one school and college to another and from one country to another, God has blessed me to better appreciate a great Biblical truth, that we are strangers in a dry and weary land, exiles in a dark and dreary world, and foreigners in a confused and impoverished civilization. To this we have been called, to be salt and light in a veiled and moribund earth.
Amid the great and desperate masses we proclaim hope to the prisoners of sin, value to the castoffs, redemption to the down-trodden, and a Kingdom to the slaves of this world. We join the ranks of other who passed through with such a message: similar to the man whose horse is saddled, pack on shoulder, and his resting place is the next cave. Noah was one of the first, that patient builder and wild-eyed preacher of doom. Then there is Abraham who left all to receive an inheritance he had never seen. Moses, the Pharaoh’s son left his lineage to herd goats and eventually died leading millions through an endless desert, having never reached the Promised Land. There is David, who slew giants and killed thousands only to hide in caves with only hope in the promise of becoming King to sustain him. Perhaps the bravest was Paul, who scoffed at death in order to proclaim resurrection. We have not even mentioned those in Church history such as Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, William Carey, Gladys Aylward, or Jim Elliot! These are our spiritual ancestors, our family, those who lived-out the commission of the Tireless Wanderer, Preacher, and Healer from Nazareth, Whose rest was on a rock and Whose food was to do His Father’s will.
Often we must be reminded of our calling – to be wary of becoming too comfortable, careful of calling any place here our home, and made aware of the dangers of living for retirement or rest instead of for resurrection. This is why I feel blessed to be living out of a suitcase for months at a time and packing-up a backpack most weekends. Yet while it is a blessing to remember these things, it never ceases to be hard. The longing for home does not go away and the deep-seated desire to rest does not subside.
It was Psalm 137 brought these thoughts and ideas into my mind:
By the rivers of Babylon
we sit down and weep
when we remember Zion.
On the poplars in her midst
we hang our harps,
for there our captors ask us to compose songs;
those who mock us demand that we be happy,
saying: “Sing for us a song about Zion!”
How can we sing a song to the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand be crippled!
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
and do not give Jerusalem priority
over whatever gives me the most joy.
There are wonderful things to enjoy in this world, and we are called to enjoy all the good things God has given us. We do appreciate many things on this earth, but none of them are to be our highest and greatest joy, much like eating at a restaurant cannot compare to home-cooking, and sleeping in a hotel cannot compare to our own room.
The thought of these Jews sitting by the flowing streams that ran through the city, their harps hanging above their heads as they spoke longingly of their home. One can almost hear them speak, as they remembered the rolling hills around Jerusalem, the olive trees in their gardens, and the rich food at their now-destroyed house. Old men might weep speaking of the long-past days when they were young men in the Temple, singing Psalms to their God, while the young women danced and played tambourines.
“Our citizenship is in heaven — and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We look forward longingly to the day when we will transformed and taken to our true and eternal home.
Father, forgive me for loving the things of this world more than You and for putting relationships, things, or accomplishments as a higher goal than knowing You. Forgive me for selfishly seeking after a home here, when You are preparing one for me with You, for You have made us for Yourself and it is only there where we will find our true joy. Help me to be careful not to clutch at earthly things if it means weakening my relationship with You, may I be wary of seeking rest and comfort here if You have called me to work. Protect me from the wastefulness of a busy life that accomplishes nothing, but may I always seek to do that which has eternal value. Thank You for giving me purpose, preparing a place for me, and providing Your Spirit to guide me until I am called to my true Home.