“When I think of home I think of a place where there’s love overflowing. I wish I was home, I wish I was back there with the things I’ve been knowing … Oh, If you’re listening God, please don’t make it hard to know if we should believe in the things that we see. Tell us, should we run away? Should we try and stay or would it be better just to let things be?”
“I Wish I Were Home.” This has been my theme song for the past few months. My mantra. My cry. My plea. Since June, I’ve flown over 50,000 miles, cleared customs, endured TSA pat-downs, heaved luggage overhead, suffered through turbulence, and attempted to decipher the gluten-free, vegan airplane meal more times than I care to remember. I’ve checked in and out of Hilton hotels all over the country. I’ve crossed time zones and back again. I’ve packed, unpacked and repacked. I’ve lost track of time. I’ve met amazing people. I’ve seen incredible and indescribable beauty. I’ve shared messages of hope. I’ve received gifts of love and encouragement. And despite all the excitement, adventures, opportunities and experiences, there are moments when I simply wish I were home.
Have you ever found yourself in a strange place and longed to be home? Back in that zone of familiarity? Surrounded by smells, sights, people and all the comforts of home? I imagine this was how the Children of Israel felt in Psalm 137.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
Jerusalem had been captured by the Babylonians and the Children of Israel were now exiles. They had been defeated, captured and forced to leave their home. And in Psalm 137, you find them sitting along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Babylon, weeping, as they remembered Zion, longing for their home.
I too have been in some strange lands. That strange land where everyone and everything around me was so completely unfamiliar – the language, the food, the people, even the religion. I recall being in Bangkok, Thailand. It was such an eerie feeling walking around and having no ability whatsoever to read the signs or to understand what was being said. I couldn’t decipher what I should/could eat or not. I was on sensory overload – the smell of burning incenses, barbeque, lemongrass and raw, decaying meat – the sounds of tuk-tuks whizzing by, horns blowing, trains overhead, the loud bass from the nightclubs, the children begging for money – the feeling of being sandwiched between millions of people even at 2am, the gritty, fast-paced, high energy, electric, alive city vibe – and the sights – the open air markets, the floating markets, and wats (or temples) unending.
And you’d think that a city with so many temples, one could experience the presence of God. But for me, this was the most jolting. I couldn’t feel Him. I couldn’t sense His presence. I was standing in the middle of a city with over 8 million people, and I felt utterly alone. I was homesick for the first time that I could remember and in the worst way.
I recall going into a wat and I watched several ladies present their offering to Buddha. They would then pick up a cup which held several sticks. They’d shake the cup, a stick would fall out, they’d read what was on the stick and some would walk away seemingly contented. However, I recall one lady who read her stick, replaced it, and shook the cup again until another stick fell out. She’d read it and repeat. All of this while tears streamed down her face. I asked our tour guide what was happening, and she responded that those were prayer sticks and the sticks held an answer to whatever question or concern a person had. The stick that fell out was the answer to the person’s prayer. Apparently for this lady, the answers were not sufficient enough to meet her need.
At that moment, my heart hurt. This woman, like hundreds of thousands of others, were searching for answers and they believed that their answers were inscribed across the face of a stick. And it was at this moment that I realized that it wasn’t my physical home that I was longing for. It had little to do with Wingate Drive or my cozy, comfy couch. What I was longing for was being at home in the presence of God. What I longed for was being enveloped by His love and His grace and His mercy. I needed the security of Christ, my solid rock. I needed the assurance of His blessed hope. I needed to be reminded that in fact, this world is not my home, and that my answers and needs would not be fulfilled by anything on this earth (Prayer sticks included) but only through and by my Savior.
So, yes in the midst of my crazy, wonderful, hectic life, when I experience momentary bouts of homesickness, I now know that I need to do a gut check. “Have I moved out of the presence of God?” “Am I allowing the realities of this world to distract me from focusing on my eternal home to come?” “Can I not play my harp in a strange land because I’ve become disconnected from my power source, failing to recognize that wherever I am, in whatever my circumstance, if God is within me than I am in fact at home?” “Do I trust God to the point where His ways and His presence are so intertwined with my ways and being that I always feel at home in Him no matter the state I’m in?”
“And I’ve learned that we must look inside our hearts to find a world full of love. Like yours, like mine. Like home.”