In my life as an expat, I cannot escape wrestling with the idea of home and how to handle the tension of having multiple earthly homes (and occasionally the sense that I have none at all).
My heightened focus on home right now stems both from what I’ve recently read and from what our family experienced last week: the stress of working on residency renewals, waiting on paperwork, and wondering about how it would all work out catapults to the front of my mind the desire to be truly at home somewhere and also the reality that many, many people in this world have much more complicated and less pleasant dealings with immigration offices than I do.
Immigrant or not, expat or not, I would argue that everyone experiences a longing for home in one way or another. Maybe it’s a longing for a different physical location or set of circumstances, or maybe it’s just a general wondering if this (fill-in-the-blank) is as good as it gets. From a Biblical worldview, the only fulfillment for these longings is Jesus: we simply weren’t created with a mechanism for being truly satisfied by anything else. And the Biblical realization of the longing for home as a physical idea is called heaven.
As a Christian, what should I do with this tension?
Should I view heaven as my true home and long for the day when that reality is seen and felt?
Should I cultivate earthly homes that enable me to invest in life here?
Instead of seeing mutually-exclusive opposites, I need to take these two realities as compatible worldview tools that together offer me a life-giving perspective when I feel the tension.
I’m reading a little book called Contentment by Lydia Brownback, and in it she writes that home “is the God-ordained anchor for the rhythm of earthly life.”
What a perfect image! Although God wants us to live as pilgrims (more on that in a minute), He doesn’t mean that we need to drift aimlessly through life without investing, connecting, or settling. He gives good gifts to His children on earth – real, tangible, gifts. Making a home or homes here allows us to invest in those around us and provides a rhythm for the life He gives.
But Brownback goes on to caution against looking for contentment, for satisfaction, for our True Home (my words) in this earthly experience. She writes, “If we seek contentment from home, we will never find it because all that makes home home is constantly shifting…Contentment comes when we discover that home is much more about where we are going than where we have come from.”
Circumstances changes, people move away, sadness comes, things break, tragedy strikes. The shifting happens, and we must learn to seek contentment, to find our concept of home, in where we’re headed instead of where we’ve come from.
Which begs the question: do you know where you’re headed?
I recently finished a book by Peter Kreeft called Heaven. I confess that sometimes I felt intellectually inferior to the task of understanding Kreeft’s line of thinking, but much of the book was a joy to read. He reminds us of the reality for a Christian: “We have one foot where we are and the other where we are not yet. Yet both feet are ours. We are stretched between heaven and earth, and it is our hearts that stretch us into heaven even while our bodies are on earth.”
In Christ we really are in two places. It’s not wishful thinking or escapism or some weird mind trick: it’s true! Both feet are ours. Living in light of this reality is crucial, and the idea of home fits right into this discussion.
We should invest in the places God has put us, “bloom where we’re planted,” as some say. Live to further God’s Kingdom where we are and cultivate a physical home wherever that is. But we also need to be on guard against feeling too comfortable, against falling into the Enemy’s trap of believing that our earthly homes are our ultimate homes. Our True Home, our True Country, is yet to come.
Kreeft quotes Malcolm Muggeridge from Jesus Rediscovered (which I’ve not read), as offering this insightful perspective: “The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realize, is to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth. As long as we are aliens, we cannot forget our true homeland.”
May we keep the “alien” perspective so that we don’t forget our true homeland!
About the Author:
Katy and her family hail from Memphis, Tennessee, but they currently serve as missionaries in Europe: they spent three years in Madrid, Spain, and currently live and work in Brussels, Belgium. Katy’s main passions are supporting her husband Daniel and being mom to their two children, Annabelle and Harry, but she also enjoys reading, writing, drinking cappuccinos, and eating chocolate. She blogs at katybrink.com and in 2016 published an eBook called Clotheslines and Callings: Home Is Where My Laundry Is, based on her cross-cultural experiences.