That Longing Inside
Homesickness might tell us more about our future than we realize.
by Patrick & Ruth Schwenk
WE HAD BEEN LIVING in Bryan, Ohio, for only about a year when we decided to take a drive to Toledo, Ohio, a city we had lived in for nearly 10 years. We wanted to see our old house.
We had brought each of our kids home to that house. It was nothing fancy. Built in 1903, it came with lots of character, but it needed a lot of care. It was desperately in need of painting. The windows were drafty and brittle. Pieces of the kitchen floor were missing, worn out by time and beat up by traffic. But it was home.
Home is never just about the place, though, is it? It’s about the people who live there.
For 10 years, it was ours. As a family. And now someone else lived there. A year earlier we had sold it. Moved to a new town. Settled into a new house. This new house was an hour from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I (Patrick) was born and raised. Two hours from where Ruth grew up. And only an hour from the house we started our family in.
As we jostled back and forth, visiting different places we had called home, something happened to us. We began to notice that nowhere felt like home anymore. Of course, parts of each of those places did and still do. But we noticed that it was the first time we felt a little homesick. Each of those homes represented times and people and places we could never get back to if we wanted to.
A new longing began to emerge in us. Home, it seemed, was no longer behind us. Or even where we were at currently. Home, or the feeling of being at home, began to feel like it was ahead of us.
As it turns out, this theme of home and homesickness is God-given. Because, ultimately, home is what we’re all looking for. It’s where we’re all heading. It’s where all the hurting will stop and the joy and belonging and goodness will begin. It’s where rest and reunion will happen.
The discover of feeling “out of place” is a way God meets us in our chaos. It’s a way He reminds us home is before us and not just behind us. We’ll get to the other side, even if we have to endure choppy waters first.
In the Middle of the Storm
In Mark 4, there is a detail we need to take notice of. One important truth. Before the storm hit, Jesus had promised His disciples that they would make it to the other side. He said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea” (v. 35).
And then the storm came.
We’re guessing the disciples discovered a new desire to reach the shore once they were in the storm. It wasn’t until the water surrounded them and the waves threatened to engulf them that the longing began to grow in them, more than when they first set out. Which is what suffering always does. It wakes us up to a deeper longing for safe arrival. For a new destination. One that the Bible describes as heaven. But that is only part of the promise.
Just as Jesus promised His disciples’ safe arrival, we have the promise of a new future. A better future. It might be a new marriage. Better health. Another child. More money. He wants good for you. But most importantly, we have a future with God. Scripture promises, whether in life or death, we belong to God. (See Rom. 14:8.) And it will feel like coming home, to the place and people we have always longed for.
God might not take away our homesickness, but right now, in the middle of our weeping, He wants to transform it — giving us hope, even joy, when it hurts. Our hope is transforming our hurt as we look forward to God’s return.
Hope isn’t just something we hold on to in the dark; hope holds us when we feel surrounded by the dark.
And what we’re noticing in our own hearts is a new longing. Something God wants for us. And something He gives to us when He meets us in our chaos. A longing for home. A longing for heaven.
Homesickness, it turns out, is something we’re all born with. It’s groaning and growing within us. Homesickness might tell us more about our future than we realize.
We Were Born Homesick
The Bible begins with humanity at home. God took the stuff of earth, working it and cultivating it, building it so it was just right for Adam and Eve to live in. It was the perfect space, as the name indicated. The garden of Eden was a garden of “delight.”
The eternal God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, filled Eden with His presence. God’s real estate is always relational. He was building a home where we could belong and He could belong with us.
As a good parent, God walked, talked, and dwelled with His kids. Creation was at ease. It never flinched, ached, or groaned. There was no weeping because all was as it should be. It was what every home was meant to be. It was a place of loving relationship, joy, beauty, safety, discovery, security, and intimacy. Sadly, we didn’t stay at home long. It was soon divided, splintered, and eventually lost.
Adam and Eve were not content to be at home with their Father. He had given them everything they needed. Everything they could have wanted. Except they weren’t God. Anxious to leave home and explore life on their own terms, their sin to break relationship with their Father would have devastating effects on them and everyone who would follow.
Even though God had lovingly warned them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they thought they knew better. They hardened their hearts by closing their ears. And then they opened their mouths to eat. The Bible describes this act of rebellion and distrust in our Father’s goodness when it says, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Gen. 3:6).
We always envision Adam in a distant room or far corner. But this account tells us that Adam was right there with her. Feeling exposed for the first time, they tried to cover their sin. Instead of running home, they ran away: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (v. 7).
Eden would be lost when God banished them from the garden. The home they once lived in would now be the home they longed for. And for the first time, humanity would know nd experience the pain of feeling “out of place.” Out of the womb and into the world we now come, with this sickness for home beating in our chest.
A Prelude of What Is to Come
God wired us for home. And to a certain degree, our earth homes are supposed to be miniature Edens. For many of us, home is where we first experience what it means to be loved. It’s where we discover the security of belonging. Homes don’t just define where we live, but in many ways they define who we are. Which is why leaving home can be so hard. But even these homes we have to eventually leave.
So it’s no surprise that we all experience homesickness in different ways and in different seasons. Eventually we leave our home, but our longing for home, the one God made us for, never leaves us. We all live with that “memory.” We never outgrow homesickness.
We were born in Eden but outside of it. And as beautiful as this life is, it’s not enough. It’s temporary. A prelude of sorts of what is to come. It’s why the New Testament describes us as “strangers” and “exiles” (1 Pet.2:11).
God has made us to hunger and thirst, long and wait, for a new home. A greater home. A restoration of what went wrong in the garden. The road to this home is bumpy. It’s full of suffering and weakness and pain. But the weeping is meant to be like a welcome mat. Instead of feeling homesick for the place behind us, we begin to long for a home that is ahead of us. In the chaos, Jesus takes our loss and turns it into longing.
Patrick & Ruth Schwenk have dedicated their lives to local church ministry, as well as online ministry, founding the popular blogs, FortheFamily.org and TheBetterMom.com, and also the brand-new podcast “Rootlike Faith.” Patrick is a pastor of nearly 20 years. Ruth is a well-known author of The Better Mom, The Better Mom Devotional, and coauthor of Pressing Pause and Settle My Soul. Patrick and Ruth have been married for over 20 years and live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with their four children.