My second annual back-from-vacation post
“Welcome home,” the passport control man said as he looked over my documents when we arrived in the States at the end of August. Three weeks later, a dear friend came to greet us at the airport and said the same thing: “Welcome home.”
That’s the reality of my life: two homes, two worlds. When I’m in a glass half-full mode, I’m happy for my rich, full life. But when I’m in a glass half-empty mode, I mutter about the challenge of living in two places and the feeling of never being fully at home.
In the states, no one gawked at me when I walked down the street [happily wearing shorts]. I blended right in. But several times I wanted to wear a big button that said, “I know I look like a native, but I don’t live here anymore. ” The first time was at the grocery store as I faced the annual challenge of figuring out how to swipe my credit card [something I never do here]. Then I went to another store and had to figure it out all over again, while wondering why those machines aren’t standardized. At the post office, the clerk gave a sigh of impatience when I asked him to explain a certain delivery option . “I live overseas,” I quickly added to let him know I wasn’t being intentionally obtuse. Later at a café, people in line behind me waited and waited while I confronted all the choices for coffee with a decided deer-in-the-headlights look.
In this country, it’s the opposite. People expect me to be clueless. They smile with delight when I use my few words of the local dialect. They know I don’t belong here. Two days after returning from the states, as I walked in the neighborhood, a man walked past me. “Soyez bienvenue,” he said in a low voice. He didn’t really mean it. There was nothing welcoming in his expression or tone. It was more of an acknowledgement that he was a local man and I was clearly a foreign woman. I wanted to say back to him, “You know, I’ve lived here ten years. You don’t have to welcome me.” But he was right. If I live here the rest of my life, I’ll never really be at home here.. Even if everything around me is familiar–the taxi stand, the buses barreling down the narrow road, the scooters darting in and out of traffic, the half-constructed apartment building, the little corner store–I will never completely fit in.
There is at least one way the tension of living overseas makes my glass completely full. My continual experience of being a foreigner here and in the states reminds me that in a spiritual sense this world is not my real home. Of course it’s familiar and comfortable and there is much I truly love about it. But whenever I experience deep sadness and pain, whenever I encounter brokenness, whenever my soul comes face to face with evil, I know I don’t fully belong here. Like the people in Hebrews 11, I’m longing for a better country, a heavenly one.
…they admitted that they were aliens 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.
I saw the holy city,the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
“Heaven is not some thin place, some cosmic hyperbaric chamber for disembodied spirits only. It is realer, truer, grander…The staggering beauty of this realer reality is that heaven is not a holding pattern but an approaching land…The new heavens and new earth will make this place more colorful, not less. Thicker, realer, truer, better…an eternal splash of glory the likes of which will make the aurora borealis look like a Lite Brite.
Imagine there is a fuller range of more vibrant colors than our complete spectrum. Imagine a new creation. The Himalayas, the pink of dawn, Angel Falls, the emerald hills of Ireland, the “deep magic” of England, the pearl of Sudan, the coral reefs of Australia, the secret wonders of the Chinese wilderness, the crystal beauty of the Arctic — all pale signposts to the world that is coming.
We worship a God whose wonders we will marvel at for eternity, because eternity cannot exhaust his wonders. We’ve got a ten-dimensional Jesus in a heaven so heavy our thin space can’t conceal it much longer; it must crash into this world.”
Jared Wilson, author of Your Jesus is Too Safe
I’m looking forward to going home.
Last year’s back-from-vacation post:
Home Sweet Home