One of the saddest things a friend ever shared with me was from Al, a man in his mid-50s. “I don’t think I’ve ever arrived home,” he mused softly. What tore at my heart was the wistful longing in his eyes as he uttered those words.
I’ve often thought of his words, especially since I left my homeland of South Africa and set up home in Australia when I married Garth four years ago. Now I know, when I visit South Africa, it is no longer my home, technically speaking. But settling into a new country takes time. So there are moments when I feel that I’m “neither here nor there.” This has given me an inkling of what the throngs of “homeless” people, including Al, must feel most of the time.
Why is the loss of “home” such a painful thing? or, put another way, why does “home” seem to be so important to our psyche?
I believe humans are born with a “homing instinct,” a deep-seated longing perfectly expressed by Pat Conroy’s words: “I could not quiet that pearly ache in my heart that I diagnosed as the cry for home.”
We all long for a place that is much more than just a roof over our heads; a place that births our most vital relationships and fosters them; a place where our entire personality should come to rest and feel safe, protected, and validated; a place where each and every person should be able to develop in beauty and fruitfulness. A place called “home.”
The words of the old Negro spiritual expressed sad acceptance that the slaves’ only hope of finding “home” would be in the hereafter:
This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Part of me argued with the first phrase of the song. This world is our home. our Creator designed and made it especially for us, the earth-creatures He molded from the soil of this planet with His own hands. Unfortunately, enemy forces invaded our world and brought war to our very doorsteps. We live with the tragedy of war all around us. We feel like refugees in our own country, strangers living in enemy territory. The words of another song comfort us somewhat: “Though exiled from home, yet still I may sing: ‘All glory to God, I’m a child of the King!’”
Children of the King! How this amazing fact became a reality for us is told in the most incredible homecoming story of eternal ages. At this time of year the focus of the world is drawn to the story behind Christmas. Whether we agree with the date or not, whether people believe it or not, it cannot be entirely avoided. It’s a story that is too marvelous for words, really, but the very wonder of it forces those of us who believe it to try, at least. In An Endless Falling in Love, Ty Gibson tells it well. Here is a snatch of the story in his words:
one moment He was there, and had always been there for all eternal ages past. Father, Son and Holy Spirit were together, as they had ever been. The next moment He was gone, and the very shape of God’s reality was forever and radically changed. An aching chasm of separation now lay between them. The Godhead itself would never again be the same.
Where was the Son, the Word, Heaven’s divine Communicator, when He suddenly “went missing” from His place in the Godhead, when He disappeared from heavenly sight and touch? He had given up the eternal dimensions of His heavenly home and entered into the confines of a teenage girl’s womb. Gibson continues:
There, as an embryo, cell by cell, God the Son was reconstructed of our flesh and bone and blood. . . . The Creator became the created (pp. 81, 84).
God gave up all that had been “home” to Him. He left behind all His family and friends. He even gave up the personal attributes that had been His as God.
No longer was He all-powerful, all-knowing, or able to be everywhere present. All He kept was the LoVE! After nine months he was born as a helpless scrap of human flesh with all its limitations. Jesus, God’s beloved Son, made His home among us and became a refugee with us in this land of our mutual enemy.
He lived through every stage of human development; saw the very worst and created the very best during His life’s journey. And in the end, it seemed that the enemy triumphed. But we know better. The manger led to the cross, but it was there that God triumphed over the enemy. It was there that the war was won on our behalf. Jesus made atonement for our sins so that we can be forever “at home” with the Lord.
The battle is fierce. “Home,” and all it stands for, is under attack. Perhaps you are walking through the valley of dark shadows; you find yourself or a family member in hand-to-hand combat with illness or temptation. Your marriage is on the rocks. You have lost the dearest on earth to you, and your sense of desolation knows no bounds. It could be ongoing financial stress, or perhaps you need a job. Maybe it is sheer burnout. or perhaps one of your kids has lost the way, or is gripped by addiction. Whatever it is . . .
May you feel, right now, the everlasting arms lifting your burdens and taking you into His embrace. That’s home—home at its best! A place where . . .
- our entire personality can come to rest.
- we can share everything that is too deep for human help or understanding, knowing He understands and cares.
- we will be nurtured and nourished and enabled to develop in beauty and fruitfulness in spite of enemy attack.
With Jesus as our Saviour, home is here and now! We are not aliens, homeless war-orphans. We’re children of the King, who is our “Eternal Home.” No wonder the heavenly choirs proclaimed at the moment of His birth, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men!”
Aleta Bainbridge is Partners in Ministry Coordinator for Greater Sydney Conference, working closely with her husband, Garth, who is the ministerial secretary. Born on a mission station in the Transkei, South Africa, and a graduate of Helderberg College, she moved to Australia in December 2007 when she married Garth. She is the mother of four and grandmother of eight. Her book, God Who? A Search for Identity, Mine and God’s, was a cry of her heart for spiritual meaning.