Disclaimer: With our posts on this blog we try to be honest, but also lighthearted. No one wants to read a pity party or feel depressed after reading something. This post is more honest and a lot less lighthearted. The intent is not for you to feel sorry for us, or lead you to believe that we are disintegrating, but for you to see part of us that we don’t talk about often. It is our attempt at speaking truth to ourselves and others.
Upon moving to Spain, our three year old daughter experienced homesickness. She turned her cousin into an imaginary friend. At first we thought it was cute how she would sit and talk to his picture, or make up stories about him. She would remind us what he was like, and tell us that he was coming to visit, as if her constant insistence would result in a reality.
She also demanded that we keep an oversized cardboard box from IKEA in her room for five months because that was her “brown house” – her disintegrating connection to her Nana, the great grandma that took us in before we said goodbye.
It used to be cute. But now it makes me weep.
Her homesickness moved into her rest. For months, nights were the poison we had to drink at the end of the day. She would lay on her bed and cry, afraid to close the door, afraid to turn off the light. She always needed one more drink of water. One more story. One more “snuggle for a really long time.” Like deranged convicts, the night terrors broke into our home night after night, too real to be dreams, too deep to be awoken from.
What do you do with a three year old who understands relationships but cannot make them because of a different language or hurtful words? She had to turn to imagination to fill the void that was left from leaving. Leaving everything.
I could see the homesickness in her, but it is just as real in me.
But how could I? There was a new country! New home! New language! New opportunities…New requirements. New decisions. New questions. New fears. New losses.
The fear of the unknown is only lightly masked by a veneer of adventure.
Restless nights and exhausting days chase one another in an unending cycle. Battling my mind to think in new words about new customs explained by new people turns quickly to battling fatigue and headaches. When my mind didn’t want to explode, it wanted to run home and imagine what could have been and what will never be.
And then there is the curse of the blessing. At times I am torn between wanting to know what everyone “back home” is doing, and then dreading the feeling of being left out. Is Facebook my friend or foe in my battle for contentment? What makes the difference? About a second, I guess.
Inevitably there is a trigger. A scent of food, or a familiar face. A text message or just a vagrant memory shuffling past the consciousness, asking for a place out of the wind. And that memory always offers more than it can provide. The sky was always clearer. The food was always richer. The *good ol’ days*. Reality was never as good as what my imagination tells me.
So where do I go from here? When we do eventually return to the States for a few months the sweet corn won’t be nearly as sweet as I remembered it. The day at the lake will not be as relaxing as it used to be. The smoke from the bonfire, or the flavors from the grill will just not be the same. They can’t. They can’t because my imagination is too good for that.
So what can I do?
A visitor from a couple months back mentioned a quote from another confessing homesick missionary. He said when he was homesick he would try to convert his desire to go back to the States into an excitement for going to Heaven. He battled longing to go home with longing to go HOME.
My imagination is too good to leave me satisfied after tasting what I dreamt about. However, my imagination is not nearly good enough to leave me unsatisfied after I have my first taste of eternity with Christ.
So I imagine. I have to fuel my mind with what Jesus promises. He is preparing a place for me. He is coming back. He will protect me in that city. He will stand before the masses, calling them all by name. He will wipe the tears and begin the banquets. He will start the dances and laugh the deepest. He will make all things right. I have to imagine those days.
Homesickness can be battled in the short term by comfort-food-eating, Netflix-binging, splurge-shopping, or voracious-reading. They can take the edge off the craving.
But I think my only long term weapon against homesickness is eternity-yearning. My guess is that if Jesus didn’t really want us to think about our future with him, he wouldn’t have told us so much about it.