You know what homesickness is and what it feels like. It happens when you’ve been away from home for an extended length of time. You find yourself longing to be back in your house, your room, in familiar surroundings, back with loved ones you haven’t seen for a while. When you left it may have been the last place you wanted to be, but now it’s the only place you desire. You may have been on the trip or vacation of a lifetime, but when you’re heading home, have you noticed the closer you are the more you can’t wait to get there? As much as we may love the journey, it’s always a relief to get home.
I’ve been experiencing homesickness lately. That may sound a little strange since I’ve spent the past two months (and actually a few more) in my house, living in my favorite place in the whole world. But this is different; it’s spiritual homesickness, and it’s a longing for my ‘real’ home. Christians should understand it. Paul certainly did, and he wrote about it frequently.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–9).
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23).
As I get older, I understand and appreciate Paul much, much better than I did as a young man. His writings resonate through the experiences of my life, and many of my “life verses” come from him. When Paul had his encounter with Jesus, he was CONVERTED. Not halfheartedly, but all the way. His self perception was blown away in an instant, but all of that zeal for God found its true source and purpose. Paul understood his calling was to Jesus Christ and his Gospel, and he pursued it wholeheartedly. But he was also a man torn by two desires- to preach the Gospel and guide souls to faith in Jesus, and to be able to go home and be with Christ, the object of his love and devotion. He expressed it best in Philippians 1:21-25:
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith”
When we’re young, we get homesick largely for our ‘stuff’. The same holds true when we’re young in the faith. We want to love and obey God, to be submissive to Christ. But chances are our desire for heaven may be just as much about the mansions, robes and crowns as being in the presence of the everlasting God and His son. Plus, we haven’t quite learned to let go of our earthly ‘stuff’ yet. I say that from personal experience. But as we grow into spiritual maturity, our longing for home changes to being with the One who loves us like no one else.
One of my favorite hymns is by Tillet S. Tedlie. It goes like this:
“Earth holds no treasures but perish with using, However precious they be; Yet there’s a country to which I am going, Heaven holds all to me.
Heaven holds all to me, brighter its glories I see; Joy without measure will be my treasure, Heaven holds all to me.”
I love this hymn because it I can sing it with conviction; it’s as if the words are mine, expressed from the heart. When I sing it, I’m ready to go home. But like Paul, I understand that God has His own plans for me. As long as my time in this life lasts “to live is Christ”. I’m his possession; He paid in blood for me. That’s good news. And the fact He’s willing to do that for everyone gives me a message and an obligation to share it. I hope all my fellow believers understand that, and believe the same way. But I also hope that each one of you get a little homesick every now and then, too.