Once in a while, I still get homesick for America.
Of course, I get homesick for people in America all the time. But I don't often think about the actual place itself. After all, I've lived in Africa for 17 years.
But there are times I long for America, and this week was one of them. Facebook is to blame, as it is for so many forms of envy. People posting about the weather getting cooler, pumpkins and scarves, leaves changing colors. And I am filled with memories: the smell of wood burning on a crisply cold day, leaves dancing in the air, running inside a warm house from a rainstorm.
I long for the lit up houses on nights that darken early. The feeling of socks on my feet on carpeted floors, blanket sleepers on small bodies, holiday treats that aren't rationed.
And then I look ahead with dread to my changing seasons here: the coming of fall in the northern hemisphere means the coming of summer in the south. It means leaving our pleasant days of "winter" in the 80's to enter into months and months of endless heat and humidity. It never feels like fall. It never feels like Thanksgiving. It never feels like Christmas. I find myself mourning, once again, all I have lost over the last eleven years.
Yet when I examine my imagination more carefully, I realize I've left out some significant parts. Cars that break down on the freeway in the cold. Static-filled hair and dry skin. Broken relationships that mess up the perfect Thanksgiving. Grouchy children in the festive shopping mall.
In my imagination, my house in America looks like a Thomas Kincade painting. The weather always cooperates, I am never sick, and there's certainly never any traffic. Joy is the only emotion I ever feel.
So I am realizing: I'm not actually homesick for America. I'm homesick for heaven.
Sure, we could move back to America and I would enjoy fall again.....but I would miss the smell of tropical rain. My kids could jump in the leaves, but would miss out on snorkeling in the Indian Ocean. Most importantly, the problems with the car and the pipes and the relationships and the grouchy children--they would follow me.
My imagination will always deceive me. There is no perfect place, no better place. Not on this earth. We long for it anyway, don't we? We think that maybe if we had a bigger house, or a nicer neighborhood, or a more sensitive spouse, or better behaved children--then we would be happy. But when we fantasize about these things that we don't have, we always filter out the sin and the brokenness. And that will never be a reality on this side of heaven.
The author of Ecclesiastes says that eternity is in our hearts. We can never be completely filled with anything in this mortal life.
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."