I have been asked by countless people in the last few weeks how I am feeling about leaving soon. At first I don’t know how to respond, how to convey the mix of emotions that comes from turning my life upside down. For as excited as I am about living in a new place, this is exactly what moving feels like. I will be packing everything I can into a suitcase, grabbing my guitar and heading to a new country where I will speak a new language, perhaps quite badly at first. But I know that time will help improve both my adjustment and language skills.
It feels like a nomadic thing to do. Instead of heaping everything into a truck I’m taking only what I can carry. I have always been a fan of traveling light. But this time feels different from the other times I have gone abroad, and the goodbyes are ripping something out of my chest each time I say them, so much so that I’ve settled for the “See you later” cop-out. And I still don’t know what specifically is causing me to be unsettled. Maybe it’s the lack of a return date, or maybe I am finally internalizing the truth that “home” is a relative concept, and not just because I move around a lot.
For those who follow Jesus, we sometimes forget that we are never truly “home.” Listen to how the writer of Hebrews commended the early heroes of the faith. These were people who chose to follow God despite not being able to see the results of their obedience. They lived by faith even until death, “admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
I’m comforted by this state of being a stranger and foreigner, because I think it is the only thing that could make sense given the state of our world. Even if we choose a place to be our “home,” does it do anything to quench the longing inside of us for a better place without fear and without sorrow, or to be somewhere where we never have to say goodbye? I am looking forward to the days when goodbyes will be no more, when we will shake off sorrow like a bad dream and not remember what it is to be afraid. I am holding out hope for the city promised to me, one teeming with people from all nations, languages, and cultures who stand unashamed in the presence of God.
As for that restlessness I feel, the unease and the sense that everything in the world is not as it should be, these feelings remind me that I am on a journey and that I’m not home yet.