`My grandmother,’ I said in a low tone, `would have said that we were all in exile, and that no earthly house could cure the holy home-sickness that forbids us rest.’Manalive, G.K. Chesterton
Sometimes, life feels a bit like a long exile. No place, regardless of how grand or beautiful, seems to work as a perfect home.
When I graduated from college (or maybe it was even before that point), I remember realizing that never again would all the people I love be in the same place. Friends scattered across the country in post-graduation searches for jobs. My heart had experienced profound beauty in multiple places around the world. It produced the aching reality that many places could be home and yet no one place or group of people were entirely home.
Walking the Camino a few years ago, I lived physically what I seem to live internally. I was a wandering pilgrim, looking for the end of the road and a consistent place to rest. So much of me aches and longs for Heaven because I desire a resting place, the place where there are no tears or separations or unfulfilled desires. A place of contentment, communion, and constancy–a home that can never pass away or be divided.
In Chesterton’s Manalive, he speaks about a man who leaves his family in order to re-discover the joy of loving them again. He leaves home to discover home. It does seem to be the case that too often the familiar becomes overly ordinary or commonplace. When I was in Switzerland, I wondered who wouldn’t gape with awe at the majestic mountains that formed the backdrop to the hostel I stayed in for a couple days. Probably the Swiss.
I lived in an old Carthusian monastery for a few months in college and once the initial “I’m in Europe!” wore off, I could nonchalantly walk through a 14th century monastery without my eyes growing wide in wonder. What I stumbled around gaping at for the first few days in Austria became a second home for me. On the other hand, when I returned to ordinary South Dakota, I saw it with new eyes. Having spent the last few months seeing the world as a picture waiting to be taken, I found myself driving slowly along a gravel road, gazing at the pleasing way the sun streamed through the stalks of corn. I had to remind myself that I was in South Dakota again, a place one didn’t roam around with a camera to catch its beauty. Yet I now found it to be remarkably beautiful. Not always, but I’ll still sporadically encounter a vision of great beauty that strikes me, something that makes me wonder at the glory of creation.
It makes me new.
Like Innocent Smith in Manalive, I experience again the joy of being alive through the beauty I encounter. Found throughout the joy and in the experience of the mundane, a longing for more endures. I don’t want fleeting encounters with beauty—I want a long, sustained state of dwelling in Beauty. I don’t desire simple interactions with truth–I want to live in the Source of Truth. I don’t want a few exchanges with goodness–I want to abide forever in Goodness.
Until that total union, I will be a pilgrim, seeking a home that I cannot completely find yet. I see glimpses of it: in the vastness of the ocean and the prairie, a good book paired with a cup of rich coffee, a deep conversation with an old friend, an unexpected angle of the sun, and the glorious moment of falling into my bed at night. I find home in different people and places, scattered across the globe yet each containing something that meets a need within.
Someday, that holy homesickness will be replaced by the joy of eternity. There will be no more discord or tension or feeling like a square peg in a round hole. No more tears or separation or disappointments. Just enduring communion–the very thing my heart was crafted to crave and seek. It will be the end of an exile found in finally arriving Home. I cannot truly imagine such bliss, but as a Christian, I have profound hope that this will be true.
Photo by Ryan Booth on Unsplash