I go to college exactly 479 miles from home. That may seem like nothing to some, but for me the 479 mile, eight-hour drive might as well be 4790 miles. I don’t get to come back very often and when I do make the trip, I usually drive through Atlanta- my beloved hometown- sometime in early evening. When I come around the bend on Interstate 85 and see the towering luminescent skyline, my eyes almost always brim with tears. Why? Because it’s home. The city lights represent to me all that is safe, what it means to belong; an extrinsic representation of the intimacy associated with the place I spent so much of my life.
However, after a couple days back in the Peach state a unique phenomenon set in. The same place that brought water to my eyes a mere forty-eight hours before is the same city I’m rearing to leave. Describing this phenomenon, twentieth century African-American essayist James Baldwin wrote in his acclaimed work Giovanni’s Room, “perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
What is it I’m longing for? Of course I miss family, I miss country music, I miss Braves games with friends and I miss fried chicken, grits and biscuits (probably more than I should), and yet, those are all just things.
I believe the word ‘home’ has a two-fold definition. Naturally, there’s the physical, geographical denotation of the word. Home is where you physically associate yourself (i.e. ‘Home’ for me is Atlanta, Georgia). The secondary aspect though is an internal, emotional, psychological state. It’s a condition- as opposed to the external, physical reality described earlier. Home is more than just a place- it’s an inner identity.
This duality of definitions explains why we’re never fully satisfied. Why ‘home’ never feels quite right. Why- if you’re me- you’ve spent thousands of dollars a “hopeless wanderer” circling the globe, hoping one of the runways you touch down on will clarify your calling. My search for new experiences, my excitement for exploring new places, effectively, my search for a new geographical “home” is actually not an external quest at all. Rather, it’s an outward manifestation of my internal state of homelessness.
I’m finally starting to realize my intrinsic sense of “homelessness” as a Christian arises from the fact I wasn’t made for this world. The tears that fill my eyes when I drive through Atlanta. The rush of dopamine I get when I fly into a new city for the very first time. The nostalgia in the pit of my stomach for people and places that have long since past. They’re fleeting. They don’t satiate the thirst that lies deep within my vagrant heart. We weren’t made for this world. In fact, we weren’t even made for the next. What we were made for is unhindered intimacy with an Almighty God.
The old cliché “home is where the heart is” can now be seen in a new light. Every man was made in the image of God. Every man’s heart- whether he knows it or not, cries out for Him. It’s only when our hearts are made one with Christ in salvation, and continually tied to the Spirit that we find the peace, intimacy and inner identity we seek. It’s solely when we fervently live in the grace of the Almighty we experience home. Ultimately however, we won’t experience our true “home” in both definitions until we join our Father in Heaven, and I imagine the effulgent spires towering over the city of Atlanta will be nothing compared to the blazing eyes of the angels in Glory. The end of this life begins with the marriage of the Lamb and the Church, when we, the bride of Christ are taken into the family of God. I know, on that day, far more than a few tears will fill my eyes as I enter my true home for an infinite eternity.