Monday, March 21, 2011

Home

Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior 
from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  
Phil.3:20


Driving home in the dark in a dirty car, windows down, I watch the people.  I hear them.  See them.  Only able to pick out phrases.  Words.  Not full conversations.  Snippets.  Pieces.

Three women stand near a light that's mounted on the wooden roof of a lotto stand.  The three of them laugh.  Something is funny. Their faces are animated.  Strong.  Beautiful.  Their eyes wide with laughter.  What fun.

I stare at them and wonder.  Would I ever be allowed to stand with you?  Could it ever be natural?  Would I get your jokes?  Would I know when to laugh?  Would I understand why what you just said was hilarious?  Could we ever be...you know...can I say it....friends?

Or will my white skin and my US passport always cause you to act a little strange around me?  Like reality TV.  The people on the television try to act natural, but there is always this awareness that the camera is on. The red light is flashing. Which means there is no such thing as reality TV, is there?  No one ever acts the same way when others are watching as they would minus the cameras.  And so I yearn.  I hurt.  Knowing there is a very real chance we could live here in this country and our white, American skin be like that mounted, motion-sensor camera making nothing normal and everything not quite right between us.

I can't stand the thought of always being an outsider.  I close my eyes.  I think of home.  America.  My friends.  Family.  Riding with the windows up.  My car that had air conditioning.  Smooth streets.  Eavesdropping on conversations at restaurants.  The place I understood.

I am a foreigner.  Every day.  It's obvious.  I am not from here.  This is not my home.  I'm reminded of that fact every time I walk out of the door.  "Blan, blan."  They call out at me.  "White, white."  That is my name in Haiti.  White.  There is no blending in for me here.  My white skin is sort of like a giant, illuminated, flashing arrow...a sign, pointing straight at me that says, "She is an outsider.  She doesn't get it."  

And while that grieves me, because I truly do want to understand this culture better, I am...perhaps for the first time in my life...aware of that tension that should probably exist in the souls of God's children whose citizenship is in heaven while their bodies are clumsily walking this earth.

Every scene my eyes behold in this country is viewed through the lens of my culture.  I see things like health care, infrastructure, and relationships with American eyes.  I can hardly help it.  My response is immediate.  The United States is what I know.  It's my only frame of reference.  My first language.  Everything new about this culture is constantly being filtered through my American upbringing.  Part of my frustration is looking at the problems here and immediately wanting Haiti to be like America.  Not because America is perfect.  I know better.  But selfishly, it's simply all I know.

Every day.  I'm not making this up.  There is probably at least one time.  One instance.  One moment when I miss what I know.  So much so that it hurts.  I miss my culture.  I feel that dip in the depths of my chest.  The drop.  The longing for the place I once knew and understood.

Homesick.

Until living in Haiti, I rarely really thought of heaven.  I felt so at home where I was, it was hard to imagine a different home.  I did not feel like a foreigner or a stranger.  I would go long stretches without thinking of the kingdom that was coming.  The place I will live forever was something I rarely thought about.

I am a citizen of heaven.  I have all the rights and privileges of God's Kingdom.  What a lofty thought.  Yet I know very little of this Kingdom that holds my citizenship, even though God has been so very kind and talked a great deal about what this Kingdom is like.

I read something interesting recently.  In Hebrews.  You probably know it.  The passages that list the people in the Bible who made it to the Faith Hall of Fame?

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.   If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

In their homesickness it seems like the fathers of my faith quit moaning and groaning about the place from which they had come and instead longed for the place that they were going.  They let that desire for the place they knew...the place they loved and understood...turn their hearts towards heaven.

I think I may always feel out of whack here.  Like I don't belong.  Maybe being a foreigner is a gracious gift God will use to train my heart to hurt for heaven.  What if I longed for the comforts of heaven like I do the comforts of the United States?  The things I think are stupid and ridiculous in this third world country immediately cause my mind to hurt for home.  When I see injustice, poverty, relationships falling apart, and my own depravity, it would be so beautiful if those tragedies would make my heart sick with longing for a better country...a heavenly one.  Looking at tragedy and longing for America is probably ridiculous.  Looking at tragedy and longing for heaven is exactly what Jesus said to do.  "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

I want to know that Kingdom well enough that in those moments when I can't take the sadness or the reality around me, I can close my eyes and imagine I'm back home.  Heaven.  The streets of gold.  Justice reigns.  Family.  Friends. Where the last are first.  The first are last.  All things are restored.  Death and sin defeated.  The place worth selling everything I own in order to be there.  Where we'll delight in God forever.  Home. sweet.  home.

During that one car ride where I wondered if this place would ever feel like home the thought occurred to me:  I am a citizen of the United States of America living in Haiti whose real, eternal, trumps-everything-else citizenship is in heaven...another land and culture I know very little about.  The entire thought made me feel very small and unsettled.  I find myself turning...tearing really...through the pages of scripture looking for clues about the Kingdom where I'm headed.  What will that place be like?  Will I feel at home there?  Tell me.  Describe to me.  What will this place be like?

Maybe that's why, when Jesus was here...a foreigner on this earth...He kept saying, "The Kingdom of heaven is like....."

The Kingdom.  Jesus couldn't stop talking about it.

Maybe He was homesick.  Maybe He wanted us to be as well.

28 comments:

Marla Taviano said...

This is really, really, really awesome, Heather. I love your heart so much. Have you read Heaven by Randy Alcorn? It's my favorite book for getting me pumped about my eternal home. Hugs and prayers to you, friend!

Avey said...

I love these words.

Hendrick Family said...

Marla...

I have not read that book. I've heard great things about it. I should read it. Right after Lent.

Diana said...

Thank you! What a wonder and an encouragement.

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

Beautiful, Heather. Great post.

Yes, "Heaven" would be a fun book for you to read. Randy Alcorn interprets scripture to tell you what heaven might be like. I have an idea that you aready have a small glimpse. It will be AWESOME indeed!

Ashley said...

I have just recently discovered your blog...what an inspiration your family is! Thank you for this post, I really needed it today! :)

hodgesgal said...

You are such a talented writer Heather. These words touched me deeply. Praying for you often....

nic said...

so much insight, heather. i especially appreciated these words:

Looking at tragedy and longing for America is probably ridiculous. Looking at tragedy and longing for heaven is exactly what Jesus said to do.

you see so clearly.

Sharon and Manuel said...

You have an amazing way with words....I loved this post and can so relate, even after being out of America for more than 20 years.

sharon

rachel said...

The last line gave me full body chills...really beautiful

Anonymous said...

Well, heaven will be complete comfort, complete peace. Isn't that one thing we all share, no matter where we live? Peace and comfort. To be with Jesus is peace and comfort. To never be ill is peace and comfort. To never see children hurt is peace and comfort. On and on the list goes. At the end of the day, only the things of God can bring us peace and comfort.We get glimpses of it now and then. But in Heaven, peace and comfort will be constant. No worry that we might wake up and it be all over. It will be eternal. I think heaven is that day or moment in time when we think,"yep, I could get used to this...everyday and never get bored" That's heaven to me.

kfsullivan said...

Beautiful. What you relate daily is so compelling that I rarely pause to consider how powerful your writing is. I read many, many posts everyday, trying to gain my ear and own voice. No one, and I read eloquent, skillful writers, seems more able than you to communicate to heart and senses alike, what you are coming to know and experience (in Haiti.)

You are in so many ways carrying out your calling. Thank you for all you do to sustain and encourage and strengthen the gifts of God in me.

Sara said...

Heather, my mom sent me to your blog and I am so thankful. Our women's small group in studying through Radical by David Platt...last night was chapter 8...all about Matthew 10 and losing our lives to find it. Your post resonated so loudly with what God is teaching my heart. Thank you.

mbs said...

Awesome!

Mrs. Smith said...

Marla and Susan beat me to it.... The book, Heaven, is AMAZING! Simply wonderful. One day, I look forward to sitting next to you and your family at the banqueting table and just hearing all of your stories.

Gretchen said...

Living abroad has done the same thing in my heart. Even though it hurts I think maybe we are very blessed that He is allowing us to see this world in that way and to start to fall in love with our real home.

Jenny said...

beautiful, heather. What a reminder of who I really am and what I should be longing for.

Anna Steg said...

This blog spoke to me in so many ways. It was what I needed to hear at this moment in my life. Thank you!

Ginger said...

I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and love your writing. This post was amazing. thank you for sharing from your heart!

Julie said...

Heather -- Has the Lord ever spoken to you about writing a book? I am a long-time follower of your blog. Your writing is passionate, eloquent, engaging, and it inspires me to action. I would love to see you impact the kingdom in print!

mandi said...

Oh friend.
These words are soul wrenchingly beautiful. I want that longing too. And I never thought about the words of Christ like that. Like it was His longing to go home that made Him talk about it so much.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

I am speechless, here. And to think I just posted yesterday about feeling out of place in Indiana vs. Ohio. Sheesh. You're so right, though. Although what I experience is nothing close to what you are living, the more difficulty I allow into my world, the more I really choose to SEE, the more I being to long for a home that I just can't really wrap my brain around.

bye.

Amy said...

Julie-I agree 100%. A publisher needs to find you, Heather. You're words are provoking, encouraging, and motivating! Never stop writing because you're touching lives here in America even though you may not know it. God knows.

Sailor and Co said...

I think this might be one of the most beautiful, raw, inspiring things I have read in my entire life. Thank you for your transparency. Thank you for being real. I'll admit, as someone who's family has Haiti on their heart big time...it scares me. It's easy to day dream about walking the streets of Cite Soleil and feeling at home. Holding and loving orphans, playing the drums and worshiping in the middle of downtown Port with skin color being nowhere near anybody's thoughts. But, it's not reality. This is a good reminder for me. A hard reminder, but one that I needed to read. Thank you.

Praying that your heart would feel at home.

Kirby said...

This may be my all time favorite post that you've written. And...I've loved thousands of your posts.

Even across miles of ocean, you still teach me so much. I am homesick for you. And I'm convinced it's because I saw Jesus, so tangibly, in you. I could touch him, hug him, be rebuked by Him, laugh with Him, cry to Him...all in you. I miss you, my Heather. And, though we'll probably never live in the same town again on this earth, I am looking forward to our heavenly home where we'll live together forever with our King.

The Rudds said...

Thanks so much for your insight! Ever since on of my babies went to be with Jesus I have realized so much about how the LORD wants us to be longing for heaven and His kingdom. He put that missing feeling and "dip" in our chests for that purpose.
I may not meet you here but I will for sure see you in our new home!

mamamargie said...

Such a beautiful post. Makes me homesick too.

cameron crake said...

Heather, I can so relate to this post... to being a stranger in a strange land. I seriously got goose bumps when I read those last couple sentences about Jesus talking about the kingdom of heaven. It's honestly embarrassing how much my friends and I talk about America (how its different from here, what we miss, etc), but from now on in those conversations your words will be in the back of my head! Love and miss you!