This is a thought I have pretty frequently in my life. Sometimes it comes when I’m traveling and really am just done with the annoyances of living out of a suitcase. Sometimes (like today) it is the result of feeling tired, ill, or worn out while trying to accomplish something at work.
But the phrase will pop into my head sometimes when I am at home, at least the house we live in at the time. There have been a lot of these homes along the way – an apartment in St. Louis, a giant parsonage just south of Buffalo, two different small houses in the small town in Western New York, a townhouse in between Cleveland and Akron Ohio, and a lovely house we lived in longer than anywhere else in a small town in Texas. Right now we’re renting a townhome, probably for a couple of years so we can pay down debts, save up a down payment, and really get to know this beautiful city we have started to call “home.”
But that word means so much more. I’m reminded of songs from different points in my life, where I’d sing “heaven is my home,” “this world has nothing for me, and this world has everything,” and “I’ve never been more homesick than now.” This past Sunday we read a passage from Revelation describing John’s vision of heaven, more beautiful than anything we could imagine. And I am homesick. I struggle with finding any place to call home at all. Part of it is how I never grew up and lived in the same house throughout my childhood. Part of it is the place I most associated as a “home town” was nearly wiped off the map by a tornado (and certainly the landmarks that made it so are gone). My parents have lived in two different places since I moved out, and are in the process now of moving again. I think it’s why I’m often focused on finding “home” wherever I live. I try my best to make every place we live feel homey, and I desperately want to feel secure, comfortable, and settled.
But this is the life of church work. While I do hope that we will be here for a long time, and this congregation very much feels like home, I also know that nothing in this life is forever. We’ve already experienced loss in the first six months we’ve been here. We have seen grief, addiction, mental illness, cancer, and a host of other things shatter the lives of our new church family. Even if we stay here for the rest of our professional ministry, we will still experience being uprooted. It comes through death of loved ones, through moving to a new house, through seeing friends come and go, and even watching our own bodies betray us.
Currently I’m in the thick of this longing for home. First, it’s an immediate thing. I’ve been struggling with some kind of gastrointestinal illness for four weeks now, which in itself is exhausting. I have testing coming up that scares me to think about. And today I am at church anyway, not because I feel good or can even function very well at my job, but because our “home” is being treated by exterminators (for those who live up north and think we have an infestation, let me clarify: in Texas, you treat your home to keep from having the critters move in).
I’m longing for rest, the kind that brings health and vitality. I also realize I may not have it any time soon. Please pray for me, and for our congregation, as we are reminded daily that this world is ultimately not our home.