I counted the miles on my way back home:
Boarding the airplane in Amsterdam (9,000 miles to go) – still not home.
Touching down in Los Angeles (300 miles to go) – still not home.
Touching down in Sacramento (15 miles to go) – still not home.
Stepping off the escalator into the arms of my baby boys – home.
Home, even though I still had 15 miles to go.
Home, even though I was in a dirty airport and was still a car ride away from being able to sink my feet into slippers and raid the snack cupboard without guilt.
I wish my brain had the capacity to remember those 10 seconds forever: the wild, ungainly loping of my 16 month old, moving his stout little legs as quickly as he could across the arrivals hall shouting “Mama! Mama!” I wish I could freeze-frame the giddy glee of my 3 year old, so overcome with excitement that he lay on the floor spinning in circles. Or the delighted, relieved, shared-joy-smile on my husband’s face.
If home is where the heart is, I was home. Nevermind my stuff, nevermind my geographical coordinates: these were my people, to whom my heart belonged.
In the days that have followed, I keep recalling that scene in the airport, and the intense feeling of home-ness and belonging I felt. If the feeling of being home has to do with our identity-in-relationship, then that makes sense of a few things for me:
- Why church can feel like “home”, no matter where we are in the world. I find identity in my relationship with God and other believers: He has made His home in us, and we find our rest in Him, together.
- Why, as a South African living in the States, I find it hard to answer the question “are you going home?” when I travel. There are people I love and belong to on both sides of the Atlantic. In a sense, whenever I travel, I am going “home”. Similarly, with loved ones always separated from where we are in the world – there is always a sense of not being fully “at home”. Something is missing. People are missing.
- Why, despite strong feelings of attachment and belonging to people in this life, I still long to be Home with God – to find myself in the ultimate place of belonging.
If our feeling of home has to do with identity-in-relationship, that explains why (despite the wonderful relationships I have here), I still long to be home with God and His family. Only then, on that Day, in the new heavens and the new earth, will we-and-all-we-hold-dear be united together. On that Day, we will see Him face to face. On that Day, we will finally belong. On that Day, we will be home.
And until then, we belong to our loved ones with a longing reserved for eternity. We yearn for it in our hearts. And in airport arrivals halls, we can almost touch it. It’s a taste of the homecoming joy to come.
It was my great joy to swap guest posts with Kate Motaung yesterday: her “31 Days of Defining Home” series has a lot of cross-over with “31 Days of Belonging”. For a complete list of Kate’s posts, click here. For a list of the Belonging posts, click here.