But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared for them a city.
Last week I visited the town where I grew up and stopped by many of my childhood haunts. The street where our family lived. The empty lot where neighborhood kids played croquet. The elementary and high school. My aunt and uncle’s home. Our church. Each place in its place, yet changed in ways that created a yearning in my heart for what is no more.
The same yearning appears each time I work on my mystery novel set in a fictional South Dakota town much like the one where my husband and I lived in the late 70s and early 80s. My heart rejoices while recreating the place and the people. I revel in the sense of being with the old friends, some still living and some dead, made during the years we lived there. But eventually, the phone rings or the clock says it’s time to fix supper, and I must inhabit the present. Each returning is accompanied by a yearning for what is past.
Even in the town where we have lived for 30 years, the longing pulls at my heart. When I pass the block where the school I taught once stood. When I hear of friends, students, or teaching colleagues who have died. When fellow believers who are part of my life and support system move on or move away. When what I hoped would come to pass doesn’t and a lesser thing takes its place.
In The Weight of Glory, C. L. Lewis puts this yearning in its proper context. “In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency….These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
This God-given longing, Lewis says, either points us to our eternal home or becomes an idol that eventually breaks our hearts when the idols betray them or lose their allure. Only God offers the eternity we desire because he is the one who placed the longing for it in our hearts. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
With each loss experienced and each idol discarded, the yearning grow inside us and our sense of displacement swells. We feel increasingly fractured. But we also feel increasingly hopeful. Because we begin to realize that our internal longing points to our eternal home. As the bonds to this world loosen and eternity beckons, we pray ever more fervently and ever more frequently. How long, O God, until you make me whole? How long until you call me home?
Once this prayer of the heart is uttered, in the power of the risen Christ, we return to the kingdom work he has for us on this earth until he answers our prayers and takes us home.
After a week in Alaska followed by another week in the Idaho mountains, it’s time to head home. Here are the top ten signs that say “It’s time to go back to Iowa.”
10. The mosquitoes found us two nights ago.
9. I ran out of calcium supplements yesterday and have just enough clean undies to make it home.
8. The food is so good here that if I stay any longer, my clean undies won’t fit.
7. While walking a mile to use the internet is healthy, it’s not very efficient.
6. My fingers are itching to get back to my mystery novel.
5. There’s this pesky book manuscript to get done by the September 1 deadline.
4. Mom left a voice mail message this morning wondering where I was.
3. Sweet corn season is underway in Iowa.
2. Hiram and I plan to visit the kids and grandchild this weekend.
1. I miss my hubby.
How do you know it’s time for a vacation to end? Leave a comment.
After being on the road most of last week, all I could think about yesterday was getting home. I dreamed of sleeping in our own bed, watching our old trees turn colors, cooking and eating comfort food.
And when I got home everything began as anticipated, starting with a divine night’s sleep. But this morning, when I walked across the bedroom floor, pain through the arch of my foot. I dismissed it as a twinge and started making the bed, but the pain got worse. Finally, I pulled off my sock and found a small sting mark on the bottom of my foot. My eyes followed my route, and there, in the doorway was a wasp corpse.
“You won,” Hiram got a tissue and picked up our former houseguest. “You got stung, but he’s dead.”
Funny how people romanticize the places they aren’t. Not once during the week long road trip did I think, “Gee, I don’t want to go home, because we have bugs.” Neither did I think about the upstairs bathroom being a total wreck, the empty refrigerator, the mound of of mail and papers needing attention, an overflowing email inbox, or all the research gathered during the trip that would require sorting, filing, and labeling.
And I certainly didn’t think a wasp would sting the bottom of my foot – even though my four previous wasp stings this spring and summer could be construed as literary foreshadowing – but I’m a real person, and real people don’t use those devices. Fictional characters do.
So today I’m feeling real.
A little prickly, a little waspish.
A little light-headed – maybe from the sting.
A little discombobulated by the mess on my desk.
A little overwhelmed.
A little paranoid of flying critters and debris on the floor.
A little foolish.
A little scatterbrained.
A little tired.
Totally inadequate for the tasks at hand.
And really, really glad to be home.
Wasps and all.