belonging, Homesick

Home, Belonging, And Stepping Stones Between Islands

“Will I ever find a home?

“I think, in some ways, I’ll always feel like an outsider. Here in the small town where I live, everyone knows each other. They were born here and belong here. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that. I wasn’t born here and I won’t stay here.

“And every time I meet someone and make a new friend, I remember that with every hello, I have to brace myself for a goodbye.”

Her voice held back a flood of emotion. She cries often-she’s trying to heal from many years of wandering and many nights of suffering. I won’t tell you the details; they belong to her, not to me.

I know she wonders if she’ll ever find the home she’s always longed for.

I make lunch and wash dishes and hear her voice ringing in my mind. I ponder Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry’s quiet novel about belonging and place which is slowly changing my life. There’s a question in it about an unfaithful husband:

“What I needed to know, what I needed to become a man who knew, was that Mattie Chatham did not, by the terms of life in this world, have to have an unfaithful husband—that, by the same terms in the same world, she might have had a faithful one.”

In this world, can that which is wrong be made right? Is there a world in which the faithfulness of women is met by the faithfulness of men? Is there a world in which we all feel perfectly at home?

Is there a world where we all belong?

And could it be this world? This life?

In our hearts, we know two truths:

First, that this world cannot be fully whole, ever.

Sin and sorrow will always plague us.

Second, that despite all, it is possible for broken people to do good things.

The loneliest people can open their hearts and become the most hospitable of all.

We can belong here, as much as it is possible for sojourners to belong here in this transience, because we can stake a claim on this world, not by right of ownership or even love of a place, but by love of people.

Friend, my dear one, you want to know if there is a place where you will be loved. In answer I say that I do not know. I wish I knew.

All I can say is:

You are just as worthy of every scrap of love you throw into the wind, hoping it will find its way to some other weary traveler. I hope some of that love returns to you. I hope you can learn that there are some people who will stay.

And hope is beautiful and hope is sometimes all we can cling to as we wait. But hope is not all.

We must act.

Can a world exist in which Mattie Chatham has a faithful husband? Can a world exist where this daughter of the King is loved by someone who stays?

These thoughts swirl in my mind and I come out with this answer:

We must hope. We must act.

And how do hope and action come together, but in love?

My friend, I will, by the fragile power in me, be the one who stays.

And for those of you waiting for someone to stay: listen. There is someone who will love you. Someone will come and stay.

Home-will she ever find a home? I don’t know.

But I do know that wherever on the globe she goes, she has the heart of a homemaker. Her arms will be home for so many. She will open them, and in her gentle care, the homesick will find a home. So that whether she is placed in the farthest reaches, so far from me that only letters and prayers can stretch across the distance, she will have a home.

And last, something she knows well: this world is not her home. It is a tarrying-space, a wayward inn. Every home, in the end, is not the final place where we will lay our burdens down.

The one who trusts in Christ has a home in the heart of God.

Even in Heaven, I think, her words and her care will be the extension of His: I can picture her in Heaven only with others gathered around as she loves them with her heart full of Him.

No-that’s not true.

I can also see her, sitting quietly in that Spot the Maker has fashioned for her alone. She is not alone, though. She is perfectly and wonderfully and beautifully not-alone, loved, adored by her Savior; there, with the gentle winds of Heaven and the swaying grasses brushed with the gilt glory of Jesus.

My friend, as long as we live in this world, with the curtain of existence dividing us from that one-day not-yet, we become islands of love in the seas of indifference.

I’ve heard it said no man is an island, but I don’t think that’s quite right. We must be islands. For no matter how close we can get to another, we are still alone. We can never quite cross the barrier between.

Years ago, my family drove over a bridge to an island. From the mainland we reached it driving. Or, I remember an island on Anishinaabe’s Sea: a ferry took us across. And I also recall the Irish-and-Viking pair in a story by Lois Walfrid Johnson, whose boat became their “stepping stone” from one place to another. We don’t have to live isolated.

There are stepping stones between every island.

We may be islands, but we are never alone.

Someday, this earth and these seas will pass away. And we will meet in Heaven.

It will be the only home where we truly belong.

Until that day, open your arms. For in them, you make a home, wherever you are.

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