These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16
Lately I have been feeling sort of homesick. I long to be in a place where I feel understood. In almost every situation, I find myself being different and often having to explain myself, or other times, feeling it would take too much effort to explain myself. I feel this in my church, in my workplace, my neighbourhood and even the international community seems strange and foreign. I long for something... In an email over Christmas, a friend mentioned 'relaxing with drinks and nibbles' with some friends, and it is exactly that which I crave. It seems a world way, to have people that we could just relax and enjoy conversation with over simple drinks and nibbles. There are days when I want to go 'home', but then I wonder where 'home' really is. Over the past decade, we have lived in five countries (or six if you count the six weeks we spent in a foreign hospital with our firstborn), have moved a number of times and have left behind friends, belongings, and even the sense of 'belonging'. Like many expat workers, we start to dread the question, 'Where are you from?', since we no longer know what to answer. Our four living children were each born in a different country. Often we celebrate and embrace the richness this brings, but I am aware at times of a sense of rootlessness, of belonging both everywhere and nowhere.
However maybe we should not be so surprised. There are several places where the Bible reminds us that we are 'strangers' or 'pilgrims' in this world. We don't belong to the culture here. We are to be 'in the world, but not of the world'. We are to fix our eyes on heaven, our true home, and press on towards that goal.
The Apostle Paul wrote: 'Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' Philippians 3: 12-14. We press on. Our true goal, our final and true home, is with Christ in heaven. And for that, we can say with Paul, 'But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ...' Philippians 3:7-8. Sometimes I feel aware of the things that have been lost or left behind. I need to remember that all of this reminds me that our true home is not here in this world, but something far more glorious. When I feel misunderstood, I need to remember that 'there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother' Proverbs 18:24. I need to remember that 'When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take care of me' Psalm 27:10.
I need to turn my sadness into thanksgiving. I should rejoice that I feel my ties here on earth are loose. I should rejoice that I know where our true home is, and as we raise our children, that we seek to instil in them that same worldview. I need to remember that when I feel alone that this is not the true picture: as Christians we are never alone, and should not lean on our feelings but rather 'walk by faith and not by sight' 2 Corinthians 5:7
I wonder whether you are facing a trial or some kind of sadness. Can you see how God is teaching you through it? Can you see that even when this world seems strange and foreign, that we are moving towards a wonderful eternal home?