catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 4 :: 2011.02.25 — 2011.03.10


Home is (not always) where the heart is

“It is a grieving childhood,” she said. And I felt the breaking, piercing truth of it as her words fell on the room. “They will grieve in their childhood, and later, they will grieve their childhood.” She was a leading speaker and expert on a rapidly growing demographic in the world today, the Third Culture Kid. I was sitting in a room full of spongy-eyed parents and teachers, listening to her describe and dissect the particular strengths and struggles of these unique children, whose lives come to be defined not by place or by “home” as many of us define it, but by the myriad and often transient relationships they experience. The truths this woman was sharing were not merely interesting to me in a sociological way, they hit at some of the deepest places in my mother heart, if not merely my thoroughly human heart.

Four years ago, in the midst of selling our belongings and preparing to move our lives to the other side of the world, a friend who had made the leap long before me wrote a letter that spoke to the coming change that would bring so much good and so much loss. “From this point on you will always be longing for your other home,” she wrote. “When you are in China, you will long for your home and those you love in the States, and when you are in the States you will long for your home and the people you love in China. But all of this can teach you to long for your True Home, your heavenly home.” It proved and proves still to be true. And it has made me wonder; can this grieving, this longing for two homes, this kid who is part of one land and also part of another and struggles to find his place in between, teach me something about the way we as Christ followers, as Earth Dwellers whose home is both the Earth and the Heavens, ought to live?

Recently, my boy of six picked up a magazine we had just received in a care package, slowly sounding out the words blazoned across its cover, B-e-t-t-e-r-H-o-m-e-s-a-n-d…  He looked up at me, eyes furrowed with a hint of sadness. “Mommy, I want a better home.” And there, in his simple phrase, was the thought that hovers below the surface of every bit of flesh and bone that has fingered those glossy pages. If only it looked better, was in a different neighborhood, had a bigger yard, better landscaping (a yard to landscape!), was closer to family, had quieter neighbors, a bigger kitchen, a better schooling system, if only it was better than it is now… It is doubtful my six-year-old was thinking of bathroom renovations or schooling systems when he joined in the This-home-is-not-enough-chorus, but his sensitivities are increasingly wired to the distance and differences between the land we now live in, and the one on the other side of the world.

Even without the overseas situation, this boy of mine comes by it honestly, he and his dreams about better homes. I have written more than a few times about how I am at once at peace with this seaside city and at the same time, almost with conviction (and a little bit of sentimentality) pining for that place on a piece of land, far from sky rise apartments and concrete landscapes, and perhaps down the road from a family member or just an old friend. Like my boy, I fight daydreams about fields that begin where the backdoor ends, and forests to play in instead of parking lots. I think about the family my children rarely see and now know primarily through a computer screen, and it grates against the convictions that have shaped me: about commitment to place, to people, to a community and not just an individual calling. I think I come by it honestly, too, not only as the daughter of two suburbia dwellers who always dreamed country dreams, but as an inheritor of a faith rich in the heritage of dwelling between the earthly home that is far from what it should be, and the heavenly home that is sometimes hard to look ahead to.  

Those guttural drives that forge the words coming out of my son’s mouth, and that I often hear echoed in the questions my own mind hashes over, are not just about greener pastures. Some of these heart-sicknesses may be due to side effects that result from the Industrialization and Humanistic Individualism that warp the way we seek to shape our lives today. I try to feed on healthier thinking, soaking in the words of Berry and Bonhoeffer and struggling to make community, love for others and love for the land somehow become reconciled with the life I am leading. Yet, in the end I must accept that our present home, placed squarely in the confines of a concrete jungle, far from any of the blood or communal ties we were once bound by, is still a place of calling. And it too, must hold some grace.

So here we are, joining in with what has become a daily reality in our modern world and yet has always been an integral part of our faith tradition, that of leaving home and country and people to be a part of something far off, both in my ability to see its purpose at times, as well as in the place it requires us to reside in.

And she was right, that friend of mine, when she wrote about the tension that now forever exists between our homes, and of the way it makes us long for our heavenly one.  I think often of how these kids of mine are now living in that in-between place, and how for all of us, it can shape our love for our True Home. But will it do such a thing? The outworking of this love for both our earthly and heavenly homes has always been in pendulum. Throughout its generations, the church has at times (as the old saying goes) become so heavenly minded it is of little earthly good. At other times, perhaps more so a danger in our current social climate, it becomes so earthly minded it ceases to think of heaven at all, or at least to know how to do so correctly.

Perhaps a more faithful understanding of creation and resurrection would help us to see that it is only in the redemption of creation, that we will truly have the best of both worlds. So that, as an Earth-dweller, yea even a City-dweller, I know that this was the home I was created for and called to — so I can and must love it, give thanks for it, care for it, lament over it, accept it and dwell in fullness upon it. Moreover, as a spiritual and eternal creature — and more specifically as a child of the Living God — my eyes are opened to the realities of heaven; longing for the return of the King, looking with joy to the renewal of the Heavens and the Earth, living with a healthy fear that this present life is not all there is. And with the daily reality of a life lived both near and far away, I am alive with the knowing, and the hope, that someday these two homes will reunite.

What to do then with this uncertainty of place, this longing that finds some measure of peace here, but knows there is far better there?  It keeps me fresh, awkward, on bended knee, flushed with the goodness that remains but uncomfortable with the way things are, and always tightening my grip to the hope that they will not always be so. And with a groaning that is echoed throughout all of creation, my soul joins in the chorus that cries out for that Day when all our homes, and our children, our friendships and distant families find their final resting place in a land where longings do not cease, but instead never cease to be fulfilled. 

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