Before we moved, my wife and I had what I would describe as an ideal community situation. We had many close friends who were strong believers. We attended church with them, participated in Bible studies, shared our resources and our homes with one another, and pushed each other towards Jesus. Of course no community is perfect, but when I think of what healthy Christian community should look like, what we had was definitely on target.
Since we've moved, I've been missing that quite a bit. We have definitely met some amazing people in our new home church, but strong relationships take time and, as you would expect, we haven't just automatically replicated what we had in Albuquerque. It has been hard for me to adjust to this.
Most people would look at my homesickness as something negative. Some might view it as me being too sensitive or impatient, while others might say it's a sign that our current situation is bad, but regardless most people would say that it is a bad thing, something I need to get rid of as fast as possible.
As I've prayed and attempted to rely on God through this however, I've come to a slightly different conclusion. Homesickness can be bad, it can even be an idol, but it can also push us closer to Christ; it depends on how I use it.
The truth is that no matter how good your situation in life is, you will almost certainly go through phases of homesickness or nostalgia: longing for a different time or place that feels more truly like home. Why is this? Why are we always longing for "home", even when we are as at home as we've ever been? The answer is simple.
No community or home that we have in this present life is truly our home in the ultimate sense. Good community, like what my wife and I have experienced, is merely a reflection of the ultimate reality of our relationship with and rest in God. Community is good, helpful, and important, but in our sinful state it is also always flawed, a blurred image of the original. We know as Christians that someday when this present life is gone, we will be eternally at home with our Savior. While having a solid home in this life is great, it is never perfect; it only signifies the reality of our true home in eternity with Christ, a perfection yet to be attained.
So homesickness then, is not ultimately about missing something on earth. As Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:2, right now we "groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling." Our entire being longs to be truly at home with God, because that is the home for which we were made. The manifestations of home that we have experienced on earth come to mind when we are homesick, because they are all we know right now.
At this point we reach the fork in the road, where homesickness becomes either good or bad.
If I allow my homesickness to consume me, and spend all of my time longing for an earthly community that I once had, I have created an idol, and my homesickness is very destructive. I am putting earthly community, something that can be good, in the place of God, who is the only source of all good.
However, if I recognize that my longing for the best community I have experienced is really a longing for God, homesickness can actually turn into beautiful worship. When the feeling hits, I can let it drive me into the arms of Christ, instead of driving me to utter despair. When we remember what the feeling of homesickness points to, it can be a catalyst for seeking God in prayer and worship like never before.
So when you feel isolated, nostalgic and homesick, remember why that really is. Let your emotions drive you into the arms of Christ, because one day we will have a perfect home with him.