Longing for Home
When I was going to on the mission field, Mission to the World (MTW) required me (and all the missionaries going on the field at the time) to go through a pre-field training. It was a really great experience. I learned about language learning, adapting to being on the field, learning to be a learner, and many other important issues for life as missionary. The one topic that was mentioned, though not discussed in depth, was cultural fatigue or in some cases, homesickness. This portion of the training has stuck with me, and I am regularly reminded of it.
It was brought to my mind again when talking to a friend this week. He was lamenting the feeling of disconnection while living here. He felt like he didn't really have a place to call home anymore. As he talked to his friends back home, he realized their lives were going forward without him. What was striking to me was that I felt the same way. I hadn't vocalized it, but that disconnection, that feeling of homelessness, that cultural fatigue was where I found myself at that moment too.
Now, MTW told us during training to expect this at the 6-9 month mark on the field. It is easy after 6-9 months in a new culture to be discouraged and long for home. However, if you power through, you normally come out at the other end loving the place you are even more. They also tell you to expect it all to happen again at the 2 year mark. (Interestingly, that's when most short-term missionaries go home.) The most fascinating part of all this is that I have felt this sense of being displaced or homeless even when I am "home." The phrase: "you can never go home again" rings true for me and my experience. Even when I go home to visit, it isn't the same. Things have changed. People have changed. I have changed. And, yes, I am "home," but it isn't the same home. Once, I leave, I can never go back.
In all of this, I am struck by the fact that this feeling of homelessness and disconnection is part of my life regularly. Even when Taryn and I had a place we called "home" for a long time, we still had pangs of longing for something. As I talk to people and hear of restlessness, I am convinced there is something in us that tells us, we are not home. We long for the day when we can feel the peace and security of "home." Even if we have lived in a the same place for a long time, it often seems like it isn't really home in the truest sense of the word. We were built for some place else and there is a sense in all of us that this world, the way it is, is not what it is supposed to be, it is not yet truly home.
That sense of longing often becomes more acute as I worship with the saints in church. This is one of the reasons regular Sunday worship is so important. At worship every Sunday, with the saints, we are given a taste of our final destiny. At worship every Sunday, we are reminded that we are pilgrims walking through this world together. At worship every Sunday, we are reminded that we are not alone, we are connected to one another and more importantly to the Triune God. It is every Sunday with the saints that we are reminded of the promise that one day the Lord will come again, unite heaven and earth, and we will be at home. It is at worship every Sunday that our sense of being sojourners in a land that is not our own is made even more apparent, and we then long for the day we are home.
So, now I feel the disconnect in my life a bit more dramatically in Scotland. I feel it because, quite honestly, it is just me and my family, and that can be lonely and disconcerting for all of us. However, on Sunday when I am at worship with the saints, I will be reminded that I am not alone. On Sunday, I will gather with the saints to behold the glory of the Lord through the Word preached. On Sunday, I will get a taste of heaven, a taste of what final restoration will look like. On Sunday, I will know that I will be home soon.