I miss home.
I close my eyes and picture that gray ranch, the perfect “starter” house for a new bride and groom, that has in the eight years since become a nestled-in, well-loved home. I miss my welcoming front porch, and the total comfort I feel walking in the front door to a bright open living space. I miss our pretty new wood floors and even the tile countertops I would not have chosen. I miss the French doors leading to a green back yard where the girls and I can always find an adventure. I miss our almost, ALMOST finished basement that my husband and I designed ourselves while it was still concrete as far as the eye could see. I miss the girls’ rooms, where snuggles and stories take place every night. I miss the mess of living and even the chore of constantly picking up.
Deeper inside the space my home occupies is what really makes it my home: family. I miss those little girls waking me up each morning, going downstairs to get them and gradually coaxing them upstairs to have breakfast. I miss watching them play (and bicker) while I do the dishes. I miss the relief of coming home with them after a busy morning out, having a picnic in our front yard for lunch, or a “floor picnic” in the basement. I miss the eager anticipation I feel every day for the moment my husband will walk through the front door after work. I miss our family dinners, hearing Valerie pray for each member of our family in an excited rush of words and ending with, “And bless this food to our body in Jesus’ name amen!” I miss sitting together after dinner watching “Vanna” and the girls shouting, “I won! I won!” whenever Mommy gets a puzzle right. I miss the utter exhaustion I feel when we finally get both girls into their beds, and the satisfaction of sitting down with my hubby to watch a favorite show. I miss staying up way too late most nights because we just have one more thing to tell each other before we really do turn out the lights and say goodnight.
I miss home.
But where I’m at is not all bad. There is a lot to be thankful for in room 4310. Friendly people surround me; friends and family visit me. My meals are brought to me every day. I have work and leisure activities to keep my mind occupied. I have a striking view out of my window. I have time I have not had in years, and will not have again for years, to read, write, create, and spend hours on end with Jesus. It is not a bad place. But it is not home.
I’ve been thinking about my temporary residence in the hospital as a metaphor for my temporary residence in mortality. The Bible says that my mortal life, my earthly home, is just a “tent” in comparison with what awaits me in eternity: a building from GOD, a heavenly dwelling. God’s word also says that I am an exile on earth, and that there is a better homeland awaiting me: the city God is preparing.
My pleasant house, with my family I love, along with the community of family and friends in this life–these are all good things. But my home in mortality gives an aching glimpse of how much better it could be, if things were set right. For within this tent of mortal life, there is conflict and strife. Relationships are riddled with hurt and hopefully forgiveness, but they are not easy. The separation of death is a wound that can’t be fully healed. The cruelty of man brings a shudder and a wish that there could be a paradise where NONE of these blemishes mar the beauty of life.
There is such a place. My favorite poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, calls it the place “where no storms come.” No storms of life. No loved ones dying. No sin causing upheaval in relationships. No cruelty; no hatred.
My cozy home on E. Bates holds glimpses of heaven in every corner. I am homesick for it. But am I really homesick for just that house and its inhabitants? It’s easy to idealize my home while I’m away from it. But I know the truth is I struggle with much discontentment when I’m there. The girls are fighting. The floor is messy. My husband’s late. There’s dog hair is in my cereal. I want a break but can’t get one!
Maybe my longing for the earthly home I miss is really a much deeper longing. Things will not be perfect or even easy when I go home from the hospital. I will still ache and long to be home. I hope after this experience, I will have a new and deeper longing for my true home, the city for which I wait, the haven where no storms come.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 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.”
Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV