I have been slowly making my way through Psalm 119, reading it just a stanza per day. I think taking it so slow is allowing me to savour passages I’d normally skim over, and it is gradually rekindling my appetite to read Scripture (because that has faded the last little while).
Last night the passage I read included verse 19: I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!
One of the themes in Scripture and Christianity that always resonates with me is the concept that Earth is not where ultimate fulfillment is to be found. When I was preparing to do a semester in Brazil I wrestled with the fact that I was hoping to connect with people there but then leave after a few months. I had already come to terms with the fact that by living in Toronto I had to miss family and friends in BC, but going to Brazil would further extend the stretching of my heart, add yet another home that was not home. Well, I went, and it happened, and now there is a group of people in Brazil who I treasure – who blessed me so much just by who they are, who I was lucky to build relationships with and be loved by, and then the semester ended and I came home to Canada.
I get angsty sometimes about where I belong, whether this community is a place I should put down roots or whether we’ll ultimately end up building a life in another city/province/country. Maybe both. That’s my fear, I think, that God wants me to give my heart to this community and trust him when it comes time for uprooting. That’s why that verse resonated with me so much, because it is the fearful cry of my heart: I don’t belong here, but you have me here. So what now?
One of the challenges of labour (so I hear) is that there often comes a point when pushing the baby out is too painful. But not pushing is also unbearably painful. And so, faced with the inevitability of pain (as well as the body’s reflexes and the baby’s determination), women give birth. I have realized at this time in my life that no matter where I live there will always be somebody to miss. Yes, some relationships are meant to last for a season and then be let go, but just as I can’t live off fast food (although technically my body would keep working, it would feel horrible!), my soul needs relationships that go below the surface, and I can’t withhold myself completely until I find the one place that will be home forever. If I don’t invest time and vulnerability and care in projects and relationships because people change and move and die, I might spare myself some heartache, but I will hurt in a different, equally horrible way because closing myself off will not resolve the deep desire I have to belong, to have a home, to love and be loved. It’s painful either way.
So I think it’s okay to feel torn – there’s no permanent solution on this side of the grave. Life wears harder on some people than others, and some seasons of life wear harder than others, and there are times when we are lucky enough to find contentment and happiness and a sense of security and belonging. Such is life as a foreigner in the land. Ultimately, I believe we were created to live in God’s presence and until that happens our satisfaction will be incomplete, but knowing that can be liberating instead of depressing (if you let it ).
I live in a community that is filled with foreigners – some speak the language and some don’t; some have jobs that pay rent and buy groceries while some don’t; some have friends or relatives here with them while others rely on pictures and their own cooking to remind them of home. I have been homesick the last little while, and it has been hard because I have only lately realized that the home I crave isn’t somewhere I can go back to. My true home is a place I have yet to be.