I have always known this world was not my home. None of us need nursery rhymes or hymns to tell us this. It is threaded through the the fabric of our covering since the first animal skins covered the first people: banishment.
We are uncomfortable, even, in our own skin, something more than ashamed and less than free. We've been trying to convince ourselves since then that we could stake our tent pegs somewhere, build a tower tall enough to reach heaven, land in a Promised Land. But that promised land has always been a place of feuding, the tower topples because we can't understand one another, and these tent pegs have grown worn and fragile in their transplanting. Can't you feel the pulse of this world is not my home?
We are a week out from closing the door on this house and driving away with all our earthly belongings, again, in the back of a UHaul. I stand at the kitchen sink this morning, sipping coffee, eating peanut butter and jelly on wheat bread that isn't even toasted because the toaster is packed and the plates are about to be, and cannot relax my shoulders. I roll them. I tip my head from side to side. I lean back. I push forward. My body hurts. Every part of it hurts. I woke this morning thinking: I do not want pity from people, but I do want patience, if that isn't too much to ask. To say with the poet, "I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved..."
I know this world is not my home. I know it keenly in a way I think many others may think they know it, but they have never moved out of their home-state. Or they at least know where their home-state is. Someone asks where I'm from and I stumble over the words in an incoherent, rambling way. I do not have a home. I am not from or of anywhere and I suppose this is a good thing. I wish I had an identifiable accent or a sports team allegiance or hometown pride, but I have nothing except a dizzying whiplash and a jumble of addresses I try to make sense of. I carry a driver's license from one state, a bank account from another, soon a mortgage in another, a birthplace in another. This world is not my home.
I stopped looking for home somewhere along the way. I thought it a possible dream, a plausible one. Now I begin to believe homes are for people who have numbed their otherworldliness with new kitchens and better cars and better bodies and bigger mortgages. I do not begrudge them this, though, not right now, when I want nothing more than stability and stillness and the same address for more than ten months. I have perhaps stopped looking for a forever home but I have not stopped wanting it.
We have spiritualized the Israelite's journey to the Promised Land because we have the hindsight advantage of knowing it is a picture of the age to come. But for those weary travelers it was just a land, a plot, a place, a stillness and stability for a people who had been wandering a very long time. It was a home.
It is good to think of the land which is to come, but it is also good, I think, to desire a land right here on earth. A place to put down roots, to stay, to commit to, to dig the tent peg in a little deeper. God wasn't ashamed to call the people who wanted that, searched for it, and found it, his own. God wasn't ashamed to call the people who just wanted home, his own. I cannot believe he is ashamed to call me his own either. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Three cross-country moves in less than two years is nothing compared to forty years of wandering with no address, no home, and sometimes the feeling of no hope, and I cannot compare it as such. But it has been my wandering, my desert, my days of manna, and nights of crying out. It has been the tool God has used to say "Desiring a better place, a heavenly one," is good, but so is desiring a place, a land, a plot to tend, care for, and cultivate. It was no mistake that this was the first mandate to man.
Many struggle to unstick their feet from a place, but my struggle has always been the opposite, to stay somewhere long. As we pack that UHaul, drive for twenty hours, and sign our names on a dotted line, take possession of the land God has given to us, an earthly plot, it is my prayer that God uses the discipline of staying somewhere, of calling it home, of committing to it and its people for the long haul, as a means of grace and goodness to me, my family, and to those we love.
"It is likely that conventional Christianity has wanted always to talk about Yahweh and neglect land. And conversely, secular humanism wants always to talk only of land and never of Yahweh. And most of us live in both worlds and settle for an uneasy schizophrenia, schizophrenia because we don't know what else to do, uneasy because we know better." Water Bruggemann, The Land