Advent: Love and Longing

I got homesick the other day.

I realized that I had missed the early winter season in Missouri. It is a harsh, cold time, with the frost-nipped lands ungraced by snow. The hills show their ribs in lines of dry, wind-flattened grass, and the trees are stripped dormant and bare. Most people complain about the 'ugliness', but I am in love with the raw honesty of an unconcealed landscape. 

And I miss it.

Then I started thinking about my family; the kind, funny, honest people who've helped shape me into the person I am...and the person I will be. The inevitable changes will come to them - some already have - and I can't be there to laugh or cry with them, to offer my support, advice, or love. Their lives go on without my presence, just as they should, but it hurts that they can't stop and wait for me, that I can't just come home and pick up the pieces of the way things used to be. A part of me is glad to be out on my own, following a different path, but the other part is sad that I can no longer be a tangible part of their lives.

But, even in the midst of all my sadness and yes, even a few tears, I knew that, if my life returned to its old pattern, I would miss this place, these landscapes, and the people here that I have come to know and love.

And I realized: I have two homes now, instead of one, and I don't completely belong in either.

I am, in a certain, strange fashion, homeless.
 'There is always something to miss, no matter where you are.'  
Sarah, Plain and Tall; Patricia MacLachan
'And Lord, it hurts!' I cried.

Love is like that. It sometimes means longing. It sometimes means pain.

But when He sets before me the option of living and loving on a smaller scale, I find myself recoiling in disgust.

Because I know that this is all part of who I am, and who I am to be.


...They agreed that they were 
foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously, people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. 
Hebrews 11: 13-16

I know that I am being slowly weaned from dependency on the things of earth. I know that my heart and soul are being trained to view Heaven (and someday, Heaven and Earth re-made) as my truest home. I know that I am set apart as a foreigner and a nomad in the world, looking always toward the place I can call my own.

After all, I have decided to follow the very One who said,
"Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head."  
Luke 9: 58 
There can be no turning back.

My inheritance is a sense of 'unbelonging' (as C.S. Lewis once put it). 'We were made' (he says) for 'something greater'. The unfulfilled longings in this life are preparing me for the fulfillment of another, and I stand in good company, with the likes of Moses, Paul, Abraham, Anna...

None of these realities make the pain less real or less immediate; however, I think that's as it should be, because now I have come to a new appreciation of Christmas as a time of strange and significant paradox. It is a time for togetherness - shepherds and magi coming to adore, heaven on earth in the form of Emmanuel; God with us - but also a time of separation, as Jesus left behind His home and His Father to come to earth. It's the lonely vulnerability of giving birth in a strange place, without the comforting presence of family or friends, and the realization of two ordinary people that they, and they alone, have been chosen to parent the Son of God (what would that feel like, anyway?). 

I pondered the significance of Christ putting on human flesh and coming to live as one 'despised and rejected of men' with no place, in all this wide world He had helped to create, 'even to lay His head'. What was it like to have a veil of flesh interrupt the constant, face-to-face communion with His Father? What depths of loneliness, of longing, prompted the cry of, "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?" Did homesickness ache in His heart, as, for 'the joy set before Him', He pressed on, enduring?

These words have taken on a more beautiful, more terrible significance to me:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though He was God,
He did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, He gave up His divine privileges;
He took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When He appeared in human form,
He humbled Himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal's death on a cross.
Phil. 2: 5-8
And so, this Christmas, I lay down my privileges and desires. I thank Jesus for His willing sacrifice of home and family in order to accomplish my salvation, because now I have a deeper understanding of exactly what that means. I lay down my own desires for an earthly home, and ask God to establish me more completely in my heavenly one.

It is wretchedly hard to let go.

To give up the privilege of 'home'.
To love expansively.
To allow the (often painful) transplanting of my longings, my affections, from the things of Earth to the things of Heaven.
To accept the pain, to give thanks in it, because it unites me with the sufferings of Christ.

Oh Lord, give me strength! Give me grace! Help me to find my identity so firmly rooted in You that nothing in the heavens or on earth can prevail against me.
Help me to realize more completely that 'home' can be any place where You are, 'family' anyone who worships You.
Remind me to rejoice at the prospect that all of these homes, all of these families, will one day be united for eternity.
Because then, I will truly be home.
In the place I can call my own.
Face-to-face with You.


  1. This speaks to my soul. I must get homesick very easily--I've never even been out of the country or away from my family for months, but I have had that feeling. "Lord, it hurts!" But that pain is a good reminder that one day--ONE DAY we will come home once and for all, and we will be divided no more; all of our true family will be there, and we will finally be home with our Lord.
    Thank you for writing this. I really like how you pointed out that Christmas was a time of paradoxical togetherness and separation for Jesus too. He really is perfectly fitted to be our High Priest--he has experienced all the pain we do, and more. Praise Him!
    Kayla M

    1. 'He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was on Him, and by HIS stripes we are healed.' Thanks for the lovely comment, Kayla. You are absolutely right that He is fitted in every way to be our great High Priest. How marvelous He is!


Post a Comment

I enjoy hearing what you have to say! You can comment using your Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad or AIM account. If you don't have any of those, you can simply fill in one or both boxes on the Name/URL option. Feel free to leave me a link to your own blog or website - I'm always looking for more good things to read.