Last summer while driving down a paved prairie road, fields of glowing canola rushing past us, I turned to my husband and said, “I’m homesick, but I don't know where I’m homesick for.”
“Today I told someone that I was looking forward to being home,” he replied. “Wherever that is.”
As a transient seminary couple, over the last four years we have lived in three countries on two separate continents and have been involved with five different congregations. It has been exciting, certainly—a whirlwind of exploration and new experiences. Our web of contacts and friends reaches further than we thought possible when we left the rooted foundations of our childhood homes. But it is a horizontal web, not particularly vertical. We meet; we relate; we say goodbye and promise to keep in touch. It is like being terribly thirsty and wanting to drink a whole glass of water but only taking a tiny sip before moving along elsewhere.
We are in some places for longer stretches than others, but even then, there are reminders scrawled across dates on calendars, warning us of impending expiration dates for passports and visas. We are guaranteed a peevish questioning period when going through a border crossing, trying to get closer to that place that we think is probably home.
Lord willing, within the next year we’ll find a place to settle down. But for now, we live a nomadic life. When I am curled up on a couch and tired from making new friends, or when I wake up and am groggily unsure of where I am, I am sharply reminded of the fact that I am a wanderer. And yet, as I look back over the last four years, I am OK with this.
Because I think it can be good to feel displaced.
Part of me welcomes that deep longing for home—not just a home I can decorate for Christmas but one that is not of this age. It helps me understand what Peter means when he addresses his letter to the exiles, or sojourners (1 Pet. 1:1)—those who understand that their real citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). It is right to enjoy the blessings of homes 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. Fear of and aversion to change will stunt our growth, keeping us from stretching and maturing into more faithful followers of Christ.
We do not know what the future holds. It is possible that we will settle down and grow some roots, but it could be that we will always be nomads. That would be hard, but it would also be OK, because why should we expect any different? The world is a shifting place; only “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). With this in mind, we will dig some roots into the very solid, never-changing ground of the King of all kings. We will grow where we are planted, wherever that may be.