Today finds me thinking about home. Those of you who know me and some of my life story may be wondering, “Which place, exactly, are you referring to as home at the moment?” Exactly. My point exactly.
I was looking through some old pictures and stuff from a CD that I got at the end of my ninth grade year. It was a CD that the two guys who had been helping out that year in junior high boys’ boarding (9th grade is junior high at that school) gave each of us, with pictures, movies, and such from over the course of the year. The CD had been buried in various desk drawers for five years now, and I just finally copied everything off of it and started looking through it again, for the first time since I first got it. Man, I’d forgotten some of the things we did that year. I laughed at one ridiculous picture after another. Completely unrelated except by coincidence, I also spent a good chunk of time yesterday reading through a couple Word documents full of jokes that I’d gotten from one of those two guys that year. Talk about a trip down memory lane.
At the same time, I’ve noticed that the very house I’m sitting in right now, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, has come to feel like home for me, between the month I spent here over Christmas and this past month here so far. I’ve noticed that, even though in many ways I have adjusted to life in the US, I still feel more at home in the Third World, even in a country that’s relatively new to me. I could get used to living here. Of course, it helps that this is where my family is. Which brings up another point. Even when, my freshman year, I was having a difficult time adjusting to Virginia Tech and America in general, Waxhaw, North Carolina, was a welcome escape, if only because there I was with my parents and my brother Jordan. When I’m with them, I’m home.
But one more is most surprising of all. I’ve discussed this in a previous post, but it still catches me off guard. Like most third-culture kids, I’ve often wondered just how to pin down what home is. (Thus, this post.) But one, perhaps somewhat cynical, definition that came to me once was: home is any place you feel homesick for. I’ve left behind many such places. There can only be one conclusion, then, when I realize that I miss the church community I am part of back in Blacksburg, New Life Christian Fellowship. I see posts and photos on Facebook. I watch a video by one of the staff, sent out to new leaders to prep for the fall. I talk on the phone with one of our pastors, who recently took a new job in Orlando. We sing a song at church here that we do a lot at [nlcf], and I catch myself wishing I was worshiping alongside my brothers and sisters in Blacksburg. Last week I volunteered to help with sound while I’m here because the church is short-staffed during the summer. Sitting behind that console on Sunday took me back to that little building on Jackson Street, where I’ve mixed more than a few church services (not to mention a couple concerts that were…a little different from those church services.) It was also telling to discover that half of the t-shirts I brought with me this summer are sporting maroon and/or orange, with the VT logo. Little reminders, here and there, that [nlcf], and Virginia Tech as a whole, have become (yet another) home.
How do I reconcile all these? Every one of them (and this is by no means a comprehensive list) has some claim to being home, to some degree or other. This is the reason for that age-old question that every TCK is faced with: Just where is home? Because in truth, all of them are.
But the deeper answer I have come to is that there is one home that eclipses them all.
One of my favorite passages of the Bible is Hebrews 11 (which I firmly believe should include the first several verses of chapter 12—but don’t get me started on that.) In there is a set of verses that was somewhat of an anchor for me my freshman year.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.
Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God…
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. 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 11:8-10, 13-16 (NLT)
We are foreigners here on earth. Now, I know a thing or two about being a foreigner. I was a foreigner where I grew up, I’m a foreigner here, and I may as well be a foreigner back in America. During that year, this passage became very real to me. But even when I do feel at home down here, I think it’s just as important to remember where my true home is.
To bring it back to that definition of mine—I think, whether we are aware of it or not, heaven is the place we are most homesick for. I say heaven, but what I really mean is the new creation at the end of time, the new heaven and new earth, when everything is the way it should be again. Ever since our first parents left Eden, we have been homesick for Paradise. And we get glimpses, now and again, even in the things on this fallen earth.
A quote has stuck with me ever since I read it—not in its context in C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle (which I did many, many years ago, and had long since forgotten) but since I read it in John Eldredge’s Epic a couple years ago. In this last installment of the Narnia series, as Narnia falls into chaos, the characters escape into a new world. Paradise. The unicorn blurts out,
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”
The reason we love Blacksburg or Chiang Mai, the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas, is that they sometimes look a little like our real home. Maybe I was onto something after all. Everything we love about a place, everything we miss when we leave it, is homesickness.