Longing to Return: Summer 2021
I still know the address. 232 Alexander Blvd in Elmhurst, Illinois. It’s the address of the first house I lived in—from the time I was born until I was in second grade, when we moved to a neighboring suburb.
I remember the house fondly, but even if I ever wanted to return to visit it, I wouldn’t be able to. The house was on the campus of the college where my dad taught, and some years after we moved, it was torn down to make room for new campus buildings.
It’s strange: I can still look the address up on Google maps, and the little red location mark points to exactly where the house should be. But there isn’t anything there. All that’s left is a memory of it.
In some ways, you could say something very similar about our first—and true—home as Christians. That home, of course, was the Garden of Eden, and ever since we were kicked out of it, we’ve never been able to find our way back. It isn’t there anymore. Despite that, we all have—somewhere deep in the fiber of our being—a distant memory of it. And not just a memory of it, but a desire to go back to it.
This is a theme throughout scripture—this sense of displacement, this sense of homesickness, this longing to return. And yet, we also recognize and understand that—like that first home of mine, which no longer exists, or the Garden of Eden, from which we’ve been banished forever—there are some places to which we can no longer return.
This should not surprise us as Christians. After all, we trust and believe and hope that our true home is not behind us—somewhere we can no longer visit—but instead is still ahead of us.
Novelist Madeleine L’Engle writes beautifully about this: “Where is the home for which we are so homesick” she asks? “It is something that is still to come; it is that toward which all Creation is groaning in travail. It is the kingdom of God that will be ready when Christ comes again. We are homesick not so much for something that was, and was lost, as for something that will be, and is to be found.”
We are, it is true, currently experiencing a time of return. But it isn’t a return to “normal”—whatever that even means any more. And it isn’t a return to our idealized view of the past. Instead, it is a return to a world that has changed following the events of this past year.
Some places in that world—like the house I grew up in—may not be there anymore. But maybe that’s ok. After all, as L’Engle reminds us, the home we’re longing for was never in the past anyway. With you, I’m looking forward to following where God leads us as we return to our new home, in the future.
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