While waiting in a long line of unfamiliar faces, I decided to look through old pictures on my phone. Pictures of my siblings goofing off, of Fun Ballet Attire Day with dear students, of memorable times with friends, shined across the small screen. And the feelings suddenly pounded within me:
What I wouldn't give to be back there right now.
Just feeling my Dad’s arms around me, hearing the contagious laughter of Mom & my siblings, seeing the faces of my friends I know & love all around… I even miss the smell of my carpet!
In Angie Castells’ article “17 things that change forever when you live abroad,” she wrote:
“A food, a song, a smell. The smallest trifle can overwhelm you with homesickness. You miss those little things you never thought you’d miss, and you’d give anything to go back to that place, even if it were just for an instant.… Although deep down, you know you don’t miss a place, but a strange and magical conjunction of the right place, the right moment and the right people... There’s a tiny bit of who you were scattered among all the places you've lived in, but sometimes going back to that place is not enough to stop missing it.”
I then remembered that I am doubly homesick - aching for my earthly home, but aching even more for my heavenly one. Pieces of a world I've never seen but know I belong to appear in memories fraught with a warm, comforting sense of belonging. It can be so hard to pin it down, but it appears in small things - a strain of music, a giggle of my sister, or a few sentences of a powerful story. And then I don't want it to ever end. One of my favorite parts of The Giver (Lois Lowry) I put below, just because it reminds me of this feeling.
“There are so many good memories,” The Giver reminded Jonas. And it was true. By now Jonas had experienced countless bits of happiness, things he had never known of before.
He had seen a birthday party, with one child singled out and celebrated on his day, so that now he understood the joy of being an individual, special and unique and proud.
… He had walked through woods, and sat at night beside a campfire. Although he had through the memories learned about the pain of loss and loneliness, now he gained, too, an understanding of solitude and its joy.
“What is your favorite?” Jonas asked The Giver. “You don’t have to give it away yet,” he added quickly. “Just tell me about it, so I can look forward to it, because I’ll have to receive it when your job is done.”
The Giver smiled. “Lie down,” he said. “I’m happy to give it to you.”
Jonas felt the joy of it as soon as the memory began. Sometimes it took a while for him to get his bearings, to find his place. But this time he fit right in and felt the happiness that pervaded the memory.
He was in a room filled with people, and it was warm, with firelight glowing on a hearth. He could see through a window that outside it was night, and snowing. There were colored lights: red and green and yellow, twinkling from a tree which was, oddly, inside the room. On a table, lighted candles stood in a polished golden holder and cast a soft, flickering glow. He could smell things cooking, and he heard soft laughter. A golden-haired dog lay sleeping on the floor.
On the floor there were packages wrapped in brightly colored paper and tied with gleaming ribbons. As Jonas watched, a small child began to pick up the packages and pass them around the room: to other children, to adults who were obviously parents, and to an older, quiet couple, man and woman, who sat smiling together on a couch.
While Jonas watched, the people began one by one to untie the ribbons on the packages, to unwrap the bright papers, open the boxes and reveal toys and clothing and books. There were cries of delight. They hugged one another.
The small child went and sat on the lap of the old woman, and she rocked him and rubbed her cheek against his.
Jonas opened his eyes and lay contentedly on the bed, still luxuriating in the warm and comforting memory. It had all been there, all the things he had learned to treasure.
“What did you perceive?” The Giver asked.
“Warmth,” Jonas replied, “and happiness. And – let me think. Family. That it was a celebration of some sort, a holiday. And something else – I can’t quite get the word for it.”
“It will come to you.”
… Jonas hesitated. “I certainly liked the memory, though. I can see why it’s your favorite. I couldn’t quite get the word for the whole feeling of it, the feeling that was so strong in the room.”
“Love,” The Giver told him.
Jonas repeated it. “Love.”
This internal longing… God has truly “set eternity in the hearts of men.” This is one of the reasons I love The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis so much. He describes with such skill and clarity what Lucy feels in Aslan’s Country, how the former Narnia had only been a fading, broken shadow of this new Narnia. It could not begin to be compared. Every bit of the old Narnia that she had so loved found itself in the new one, vibrant and glorious - a thousand times better - and never to fade away.
So, with this homesickness, I am reminded of a place to come where there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. A place where God’s people will all fellowship together in perfect love; the struggle will be over. Where we can sing the praises of the great Author, devoid of selfish intentions or heart-distractions, but purely in spirit and truth.
Natalie and I are doing well & settling into a routine. The homesickness has laid off a good deal since I started this post around 2 weeks ago. We've made some friends and campus feels more like home and less like a foreign country. It’s crazy to think we've already been here 3 weeks!
I hope to finish our first video blog soon.