As I walked Rudy on this beautiful autumn morning, I felt the leaves crunch under my feet. I smelled that comfortingly familiar scent of burning leaves in the air. I heard the leaves rustle in the trees and watched them swiftly taken around in the breeze. I sat on a bench, looked around at the quiet world on fire around me and said to myself, “I wish I could go home.”
It wasn’t a melancholy statement, nor was it a plea to escape my life. No, it was a deeper longing, an innate pull from my heart.
Perhaps now more than ever, I’m recognizing a similar pattern of longing among those around me. Those in their 30’s and 40’s are out of their parents’ homes, living independently with families of their own. Those in their 50’s and 60’s are experiencing their babies leave home, and facing the reality of their own parents’ health declining and passing.
I saw a glimpse of this as my mom and aunt were busy selling their childhood home this summer — the home my grandmother and grandfather raised them in since the late 1950’s. My beloved Grammy went home to be with the Lord one year ago, and going through her home, treasured belongings, and memories was an all-too-real lesson in reluctantly letting go of what “home” meant to them.
Part of me often over-analyzes why the desire to return to my childhood is something I often wish I could do. I recognize that I want to go back to that familiar place because it was an upbringing of love, security, comfort, and belonging. But I have loved ones whose upbringings were the opposite of mine — abuse, trauma, instability, pain — and there is still a longing in their hearts, too. So is it really childhood we’re longing for?
Sure, there is a part of the human heart that yearns to return to youth — but the greater longing of the human heart is a forward-looking longing. We’re yearning to go home: our future heavenly home.
Because we are made in God’s image, naturally we long for Him as our Father, our Provider, our Sustainer, our Protector. Even those who have not placed a saving faith in Jesus Christ still have this longing — saved or not, they are still made in His image and bear His likeness.
Paul speaks of this familiar longing in 2 Corinthians 5: “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (vv. 1-4). Paul illustrates both our physical bodies and the earth we live in like tents, easily collapsible and not strong. He encourages us to fix our eyes on our eternal house in heaven, which is a building — a strong fortress that cannot be destroyed.
Similarly, in Philippians 3, we find Paul experiencing these tensions again. He says, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13-14). Paul’s “straining” is the reality of our tension here on earth. For those who are in Christ, we have already attained God’s full acceptance (v. 16), but while we are still here on earth we cannot fully live out Christ’s goodness.
So naturally, our souls are trying to get away from the imperfect and temporary, and trying to move towards the perfect and permanent. And this increases our longing desire for home.
As we await the day that the Lord welcomes us back home in His loving embrace, we are called to faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). By faith, we believe God’s promises and provisions for our lives. By faith, we trust that God is in control of our past, present, and future — even when we cannot see it. By faith, we live in assurance and expectation of ultimate fulfillment. We trust, we hope, we anxiously and eagerly await.
Lord Jesus, let your kingdom come!
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” — Psalm 42:1-2
Photo used with permission from picjumbo.com