I spend 10-14 days away from my family every year, and I always miss them, of course. But this time is different. I long for them. I am aching for them. I want to see them in person, and hear their voices in person, and envelope them into my arms, and myself into theirs. I miss them (massive understatement!). I am homesick for them.
Now, this trip back to the States has reminded me of how much I love the U.S. I really do love this country. I love the foods and the sports and the weather and the pine trees and the smells and the conveniences and the linguistic accents and drawls. I love the physical / geographical space occupied by the U.S.A., particularly The Deep South.
Most of all, I love the people here: my parents and brother and Poppa and extended family… my incredibly precious lifelong friends from adolescence to college to adulthood… my absolutely irreplaceable church family! But as much as I love it here, I know this is not my home…
Now, I like the ship, the Africa Mercy. I like all my stuff there. My bed there is nice and comfortable. I know where everything is. I love my co-workers and the community onboard. I like the city of Pointe-Noire, and the country of Congo, and the continent of Africa. But the physical / geographical space of the Africa Mercy, docked at the port of Pointe-Noire, is not my home. And those aren’t really the things for which I am truly homesick…
Several years ago, I had just gotten home from a short-term mission trip, and I was catching up with my good friend, telling him how homesick I was. Now, I loved my house and my neighborhood and my job – but I wasn’t really homesick for those things. I was homesick for Dianna. I told him, “I’m not really ‘homesick’; I’m Diannasick!”
And he said, “well of course you are. Dianna is your home.” This was a revelation to me. Wherever Dianna is on this earth, that is where my home is. Whether that’s Columbus, GA, USA, or Africa Mercy, Pointe-Noire, Congo – my home is where she is, and when I am with her, I am home.
God, I love being married to her!
But even the two of us have felt the ache – even beyond each other. There is a homesickness that even surpasses that of a beloved and unified spouse. She’s felt it – even while with me. And I’ve felt it, too – even while with her. I am wonderfully satisfied when I am with Dianna, but I am not whole. I experience more fulfillment and enjoyment in her presence than I do in anyone else’s (indeed, in everyone else’s!), but that fulfillment – that enjoyment – is not complete – even in her, who is the most awesome, amazing, and perfect person for me in the whole wide world!
I would venture to say you’ve felt it, too. In the midst of even the best circumstances and the worst, we’ve had the sense that something fuller, deeper, stronger, more pure, more whole, more complete is out there than either the temporal crap or wonderful euphoria we are currently experiencing. And we’re right.
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. -Hebrews 13:14
We’re on a journey away from our true Home. Just like my recent trip to the States has been for me: the journey is fulfilling; it is enjoyable and satisfying. We like it here on earth. But it’s not our real Home.
But hold on just a second – let me shock you a bit (and please do feel free to leave me feedback): heaven is not our real Home either, in and of itself. Heaven is just another place apart from God. It’s a nice place – it’s really nice! But our real Home is in the arms of the Father. It’s in the presence of Jesus. Like Dianna is in a way my real ‘earthly home’, so too wherever Jesus is, that is where my real ‘heavenly Home’ truly will be.
Now, incidentally, heaven is the residence of Jesus and is, therefore, our home. But heaven is not home just because it is heaven, it is home because Jesus is there. Heaven is not our goal. Jesus is. Heaven is not our prize or the thing for which we are longing or striving. Our longing, our desire, our ache is to be with Jesus.
In the same way, the Africa Mercy happens to be where Dianna is and it is therefore my earthly home – but not because of its own self as a destination or place. My prize, my desire, my ache – the reason for which I long to get back to the Africa Mercy is because Dianna is there.
It’s an important question – one with which we all (myself included) need to wrestle from time to time: which do we long for more – heaven or Jesus? The question is ultimately moot, for we will get both in the end, but which one are we more excited about? Which one are we aching for most?
We live as “temporary residents and foreigners” in this world… -1 Peter 2:11
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when He is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. -1 John 3:2
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. -Colossians 3:3-4
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end… For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. -1 Corinthians 13:9-12
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better… -Philippians 1:21-23