My family and I took a pre-Christmas trip back home to New Jersey recently. It was not the first trip back home since moving, but it was the most emotional and thought-provoking trip to date. As we drove through Virginia, Maryland, and finally, Pennsylvania, like a small child, I anticipated the “Welcome to New Jersey” sign that awaited me at the state line.
As we approached the Delaware River, I could see the sign. It was like a beacon leading me back home. A familiar friend opening the door to greet me. Family embracing me. I welled up (I really did). I was home, and it just felt so good and so right.
As we drove the final leg of our trip, my head sat cocked against the passenger side window. My eyes were wide, my gaze long, as I soaked in the beauty of the ice-encrusted landscape. A light blanket of snow dusted the ground. The sunlight, reflecting from each ice laden bough, filled the expanse with shimmering lights. It was simply stunning.
As we pulled into the driveway and stepped outside, the cold air brushed my face and filled my lungs. My hair tossed about in the cold breeze. I buttoned my red wool coat and simply stood. I closed my eyes and breathed in the air of home. Through closed eyes, I could feel the tears well up. I opened my eyes and felt the warmth of my tears stain my cheeks and dot the collar of my coat. I gazed down the street that I had once called home just a few months prior and was filled with an unexpected rush of emotion. I had been longing for home so much more than I had realized.
My time in New Jersey was filled with so much sweetness. Each greeting and embrace warmed my heart; each expression of love served to breathe life into a weary soul. Each conversation with those who knew my heart and shared in its joy and sadness was like a healing balm. Oh, what good medicine. Saying goodbye was difficult this time, and as we departed I felt my soul longing for the next time I would return home.
The drive home was solemn and quiet. There was little frivolity from anyone. I sensed that all of the emotions that I was experiencing were in sync with that of each member of my family. We all have tried hard to make our way in our new town and area, but most of us have been left to feel more like aliens than natives. Belonging has been elusive in many ways. I forget who broke the silence, but one of my sons asked, “When will be our next trip back home to New Jersey?”. They too longed for home.
I believe that this was the first time that I have truly experienced “longing”. It was an ache, a desire, a craving originating from the deepest part of my soul for something that I knew was simply unattainable. Longing is a strange and delicate balance of love and lamenting. A profound affection for what was and a deep languishing for what no longer can be mingle together in a new reality. Oh, how my heart yearned for my New Jersey home, for my people, for my normal. It was where I wanted to stay; all else seemed foreign, strange, and distant.
With my husband willing to drive the entirety of the return trip, I was left to sort out my thoughts and feelings. As my mind sank into sadness, the Lord broke through the mire. Like a tender father, I could feel His embrace and comfort; I could hear that still small voice as it broke through the clamor of my thoughts. He first reminded me that this was a journey that He had begun and that he brought to fruition in His perfect timing. Our new home was hand selected by Him for us. I was reminded that the same Lord who uprooted us from New Jersey, is the same God who is in the process of rerooting us here in Virginia. Putting deep roots down into the soil takes time, but once those roots take hold, a flourishing and bountiful plant emerges. Sometimes the strong of heart need moments of weakness to hear the Lord.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
I love when the Lord takes our minds to things eternal right in the midst of where we are. And while I was thankful for the Lord’s affirmation and comfort, I quickly felt a very deep conviction envelop me. When was the last time that I truly yearned and longed for my heavenly home and for the things of the Lord? As much as my heart and soul longed to return home to New Jersey, those feelings should pale in comparison to how my soul should long for heaven, eternity, and my Savior.
In the midst of the busyness of life, we often become comfortable, willing to feast on the crumbs that the world has to offer, neglecting to remember that God has prepared a magnificent heavenly home for His children. As the “Welcome to Virginia” sign came into sight, I was reminded that my citizenship is in heaven and that this home, whether it be in New Jersey, Virginia, or elsewhere, is simply my temporary address. A far greater home awaits for those who have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation and acknowledged their sinful state and their need for the Savior.