On coming home
I hadn’t been home for three months. You know that distinct delight of a homecoming? Enveloping hugs, familiar meals, the perfect rest of belonging. I’ve returned to my squeaky twin bed, years of framed school pictures, the joy of family life. There’s a certain timelessness here, in the home where I grew up. I fall into the comfort of a quiet routine, of lazing for hours on the couch, of long conversations around the dinner table. This time does my heart good.
Every Thanksgiving, we take turns sharing one thing we’re grateful for. This year, I spoke of my gratitude for having two homes—this wonderfully old, familiar one, and the new one I’ve created in Philadelphia, one where I’ve come to life in a way like never before. Even in this comfort, familiarity, and belonging, I miss what—and who—I’ve left behind. There’s still the pain of separation in the midst of reunion. And I’ve felt that pain time and time again. There was the little green house in Pittsburgh, my home with dear friends in my last year of college. Then came my first missionary home with the tree swing in the backyard, the place of many a sleepover. And there was my dream of an apartment in Manhattan, shared with seven others and nestled in the city I came to fiercely love.
That pain of separation is a sweet pain, one that is cause for rejoicing, too. For not only does it signify that I’ve loved deeply and invested well and added to my growing list a place to come visit and reminisce in later years, it is a pain that turns my yearning heart heavenward. I reflect often about the meaning of home. It’s striking to me how much can be tied up in a place, even a shoebox of a house shared with many. Just the thought of one of my many homes can conjure such emotion, so many memories, a deep longing that only I know. And wherever I am, I know, I will sense that longing, that incompleteness. Just as my homes from years past are scattered about, so too are countless friends and relatives, ones whom I love dearly and sometimes ache at the thought of. It’s as if this world isn’t enough.
And that’s just it—this world isn’t enough. It will always fall short. I will keep making new homes and leaving the old behind, keep missing loved ones, keep seeking chances to reunite and rejoicing again at coming home. This cycle of coming and leaving, deep pain and great joy, familiarity and newness—it propels me to my ultimate home of heaven. And that, that is the home that I truly yearn for. That is the place which will put an end to this wearying cycle, to the pain of loss, to the aching for something more. That is where I will experience the truly perfect rest of belonging, enveloped in the love of the One who made me. Where I’ll hear for the last time, Welcome home.