World-weary and travel-worn, we turned our dusty black sedan down the long gravel driveway. At the end ahead of us, waiting, was an old, Swiss-style house, all peaks and doors and sweeping curves and decks. Parking on the slab of concrete, we turned off the car and climbed into the dusky air. One of the two French double doors opened before us, and a small head poked out.
“Mommy! Daddy!” she exclaimed.
We were home.
Is home where the heart is? Is it a place that completes us? Is it people who own a part of us? Is it a state of being? What makes home home, and how do we know when we’re not there anymore?
One way or another, at the start of December Sarah and I left home and set out on our adventure. We had been commuting daily up to Seattle for medical appointments, but we had reached the point in my treatment path for stem cell/bone marrow transplant where that was no longer an option. When we left home, though, we weren’t just leaving a structure or what was familiar: I was going to be spending quite an extended period in the hospital, so we had to leave our two daughters behind as well.
It might sound like an incredible break to leave the children behind and have a long-term “second honeymoon.” (Though, admittedly, the setting does lack a certain ambiance no matter who you are.) Let me assure you, it’s not. Especially as Christmas came and went and then New Years passed by as well, the conspicuous absence of our girls gnawed at us.
Things got better after the roughly month-long stint in the hospital. Then we were living in a little apartment minutes away from the clinic, but at least we weren’t still trapped in the one tiny room. However, despite being only an hour away from our house, we still found ourselves to be strangers in a foreign land.
In most of the great triumphant stories the heroes come back from their adventures wiser, stronger, with all they’ve learned and seen and experienced packed down inside. And there they stay, until the next odyssey comes along. Alternatively, the people who have become their home enfold them, and though the location is different, they come home all the same.
We thrill in the adventure, but eventually, even if it is bittersweet, we want the heroes to get home, whatever that home may be. Why? Because we want the heroes to live happily ever after, at least until the next adventure.
Why do we so love these stories? Why do we revel in these other lives? I think it’s because, deep inside, we long for these heroes to be us. What we don’t realize is, they are.
Maybe you don’t see the adventure in your life. Maybe you don’t see the importance of your quest. But that’s because you don’t see the full story. You don’t fathom your own significance. And you don’t realize the deep-seated hope that some day you’ll be home.
So what if you’re already home? What of this restlessness you feel in your heart? What about the feeling that you’re supposed to do something important, and it’s pushing and filling you almost to bursting?
I think this deserves a three-pronged answer. First of all, sometimes we seek adventure, not realizing that our adventure is all around us, right where we’re at. Second of all, sometimes there is something we are pressing toward and we don’t even completely realize what we’re fighting for. But when it arrives, when we break through to the other side, we will sigh with relief, knowing this was what we were meant to find all along. Third of all, there is another home we are traveling to. And we are not there yet.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (1)
How can we be home and yet so far off from it? Because we are not at our true home yet. Yes, home is people. Yes, home is a place. And anything we have now is but a shadow of the people and place that is to come. And the adventure is to get there, to that true home. Not that the adventure ends there, of course: in fact, when we come home is when the adventure really begins.
“And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (2)
We were homesick for our place and people in this world. But all of us are homesick for another home as well. And some day all of us will arrive there.
Having said all that, we must all have those rests, those “happily ever afters” in between. No matter how brief. And it is so wonderful to say that, after our travels in foreign lands, we again found ourselves coming home.
Next week we start on another adventure, once again stepping out into the unknown. But for now we are home, and we are just being. And that is a good feeling.
- Hebrews 11:13-16
Lewis, C.S. “The Last Battle”, pg. 210-211. (1994, HarperCollins.)
Image (c) Dollar Photo Club, 2015