I am one of those people who carries a kind of a restlessness in my spirit, a sense that I don’t really belong where I am, that there’s another place where all the wondering and uncertainty, pain and insecurity of life would be eased completely. I’ve felt differing degrees of this “homesickness” at various points in my life but it seems to be a feeling that is never very far away.
The funny thing about it is that I can’t really define exactly what it is I am longing for. It’s not a place, really. It’s not people, entirely. It’s not certain circumstances, exactly. It’s just . . . something.
And the times I am most aware of this restlessness in my spirit are when I feel a tug in my heart, a wistful longing for something . . . for, I guess, home. Either that or just another good excuse to welcome drama to my life. (I’m always looking for those, you know.)
The irony of these musings is that I would say, in general, I feel more “at home” in my life than I can ever remember feeling. Circumstances seem to fit like a comfortable coat; I feel happy. But I guess I felt a little twinge of longing last week when I got an email from my little brother Matthew (okay, he’s not that little–25, to be exact) with some pictures he’d taken out at the beach. He was diving or surfing or something and took some great pictures (here’s one of a whale). The pictures reminded me of diving with my dad when I was a kid; of bonfires on the beach and bringing baby hammerhead sharks in for second grade show and tell. They reminded me of home. (I grew up in Hawaii.)
So all of those memories were on my mind yesterday when I got off the plane in Los Angeles, where I am spending the week for a meeting of the Lewis Fellows program through the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary. The wave of homesickness hit me as soon as I stepped off the plane and felt the balmy 72 degrees of Southern California. All around me were palm trees and all sorts of tropical plants–the kind that grew in my backyard when I was a kid.It was all there, all around me and yet I knew . . . as close as I was to home (just a short 4 hour plane ride and I could be there!) I wasn’t really there. All afternoon I felt a nostalgic longing, a little pull in my heart to be back in a place where everything fits me, a place where I know I belong.
I always forget that coming to California makes me really homesick. With the palm trees and birds of paradise all over the place, see, there are so many reminders of that feeling of being at home. And I think that being almost home is sometimes harder than being far, far away, because those feelings of recognition and longing well up and feel, to me, anyway, palpable.
I wonder if Jesus ever felt that way. Surely he could see glimpses of heaven all around him when he walked on this earth, but the circumstances in which he found himself were woefully unlike heaven. He must have felt pangs of homesickness a lot, I’m thinking. I wonder sometimes if that longing for home, for the real place where we belong, where we are fully known and completely at rest is just part of being human. Do you think as we make our way through human living the glimpses of God that we catch in other people make our hearts long for our real home, with God?
I guess in the end I’m glad for the pictures and the balmy breezes, the flowers and the sunshine. I know I’m not quite home, but being almost home reminds me of that feeling . . . the feeling that I am fully accepted and deeply loved.
It feels almost like I’m home.