Dingy white sea foam crashed against my bare ankles like a snowy avalanche engulfing twin pines. Sand retreated between my toes back into wide blue expanse. With childlike indecisiveness, a nervous sand piper darted in and out of the lapping waves in search of dinner. The sun splashed an abstract orange and purple painting onto the skyline as night prepared to close the curtain on another day. My long-awaited vacation had arrived, yet a faint but clear voice still whispered I had not.
My heart knew what my mind refused to concede. Paradise was at my fingertips, but home was still out of reach. A line from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity seized my mind: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” The soft ocean breeze was like an angel’s breath inviting me to dream about a place I have never seen, yet desperately long to be. The scene around me awakened the longing within me. I couldn’t lull it back to sleep. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to go home, not back to Mount Airy–the city of Andy–but to Mount Zion, the city of God.
Like a refugee looking for a permanent place, the desire for something better–something more–is at home in every human heart.
It reveals itself in the passing incompleteness of our greatest triumphs. It shines brightest in the shadow of disappointment. Its voice is heard in the empty echo that returns to us from the pinnacle of success. Sometimes it whispers through the persistent not yet, and at other times it shouts with the voice of unmet desires that demand to be heard. Even pleasure has a way of demanding answers to those who are willing to let it ask its questions: where does joy come from, why can’t happiness last forever, is the pursuit of pleasure our whole reason for existence?
Longing is not the end in itself. Every desire has an object. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews pinpointed the root of our desire when he said that Abraham looked for a city “whose builder and maker is God.” At our very core we are longing for a place to really call home. Without provocation something in us calls for a better country. Our souls speak an unlearned foreign language that can’t be answered in any celestial tone. We long for the place we were really meant to be all along. This longing is not naïve, it is native. The desire itself is an evidence of the existence of a better world where perfection is possible and peace overrules. When surveying the vanity of life, King Solomon wrote, in Ecclesiastes 3, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” We are by nature eternal being with eternal appetite. Behind every mistaken pursuit lies our deeper desire to be at Home with God.
When sin entered the story our fairy tale quickly became a tragedy. Mankind who was created for intimacy with God found himself separated from his one true love. Without doubt Eden was a garden paradise but it was the presence of God that made it home. In marvelous mercy God placed a guard post on the eastern edge of Eden to keep fallen man out of the garden lest he ate of the tree of life and lived forever in our ruined state. Ever since then we’ve been searching for a way back in to the garden that sin got us evicted from. In essence we all want to go back home.
The groans of the creation can be heard in spewing volcanoes and the destructive tsunamis. Every falling star cries out with its final breath, “Something is wrong in the universe,” and our own hearts confirm we are still east of Eden and somewhere south of home.
If longing were all I had to offer, the pleasure of my sentiment would render me still miserable and hopeless. May I say, I have hope because I have a home to look forward to. Jesus promised that He was going to prepare a place for me in the house of His Father. He then said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus is my way home! He is the gateway back to into Eden. He endured the sword to open the garden to me. Better still, through faith in Him I have been reconciled with God and can walk with Him again. I know I’m not home yet but greater still I know I’ve found the way.
As I reflected on my vacation, I found that surprisingly it was the bitter longing that made my vacation sweet. The expectation of what is to come made me enjoy the beauty of what was with a greater appreciation. Every pleasure became purer, every color brighter, and every moment sweeter knowing that these were only fleeting shadows of the better reality to come. The knowledge that I will one day live with the Artist in the land where all the beauty came from was almost more enjoyable than I could bear.
Many times since, I have been overcome with the desire to taste “again” what I have never tasted once, to hear the music my ears have never enjoyed yet somehow always miss, and to embrace what I have searched for in everything else. I’m looking forward to the land of the forever hello where I can finally bid farewell to goodbye. As for now I’m a pilgrim wandering east of Eden just somewhere south of Heaven but I’m looking for a city, I’m longing for home.
-Pastor Benjamin Webb