“I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” -Andy Bernard
Years ago, when I was fresh out of high school and still living at home with my mom, I took a creative writing class at the local junior college. One assignment we had to complete answered the question, “Can you ever truly go back home?” As I said, I was still living at home, so I have no idea what I would have written. I didn’t know what it meant to go away for a period of time and then to come back.
It’s been almost a year since my husband and I began looking for a church home closer to us [I wrote a bit about our search last year]. We just recently became members of a new church, but it still doesn’t feel like home. I mean, we know some people and have a general idea of what’s going on now, but the comfort of knowing all the ins and outs isn’t there yet. The comfort of being known isn’t there yet. It’s just not home yet.
On the other hand, I had the chance to spend time with friends and former coworkers from our previous church this past weekend. Like going home for the holidays in Hallmark movie, my visit was full of warm hugs and snippets of conversations about family and life. I find there’s never enough time to actually say everything that you want to say when you’re just passing through. But it was also full of the things I didn’t know anymore: life events that I missed, plans that I didn’t know that don’t really affect me, and changes I’m not used to seeing. What I found is that the church that seemed like it would always be home, wasn’t.
So it seems I’m neither here nor there.
As Israel wandered through the desert, they weren’t yet home in the Promised Land. Neither were they in their former home, Egypt. The discomfort of being in between homes frequently led them to complain about how the desert was so much worse than being in Egypt. They’d say things like, “We had tons of food to eat in Egypt, but are starving out here” (Exodus 16:3); and “Remember all the variety we had? Now it’s just manna, manna, manna” (Numbers 11:5, 6).
It was as if they could only see things from their past with the rosiest of rose-tinted glasses. Never mind the fact that they were slaves in Egypt. Never mind the fact that they were crushed under the weight of oppression. Never mind the fact that they cried out to the Lord to free them, but then refused to enter into the land he promised to hand over to them, extending their wandering. All they could see in the in between was how good they’d had it before.
I totally get it, too. The temptation to try and go back is overwhelming because anything beats the discomfort of being in between homes. We also put on our rose-tinted glasses and focus on the nice things, ignoring anything else. Of course there were days of feeling lost and lonely, even as a staff member at my old church. Of course there were hard times. But you can’t always see that in the in-between season.
The reality is that we can’t go back home because home isn’t behind us, but in front of us.
The Bible tells us that we are sojourners and foreigners on earth (1 Peter 2:11) and that our bodies are earthly tents—temporary dwellings (2 Corinthians 5:1). As long as we are on earth, there will be moments of feeling like we’re only passing through, like we’re not where we belong, because this life isn’t home. We’re reminded in these awkward moments of the reality that home is with our Heavenly Father. Home is the eternal life we’re traveling towards.
Don’t get me wrong, this life is full of many amazing people and moments. We are here because we have a purpose while we’re here on earth. I believe that the Lord intends for us to use every moment we have on earth to love others lavishly and serve him. We just shouldn’t be shocked by feelings of loneliness or being out of sorts because we’re still not home yet.
In the meantime, may we faithfully continue as sojourners in this life, looking forward to the day when we’ll hear Jesus say, “Welcome home.”