A while back, a friend asked if I’d ever heard the adage, “Heaven may be my home, but I’m not homesick yet.” No, somehow I made it through over half a century of living without hearing that one, in spite of being a believer for the vast majority of those years. Since becoming acquainted with it, however, I’ve had a number of occasions which have brought it to mind, but with a twist: “Heaven is my Home and I’m so very Homesick” . . . like the news I received a few days ago.
I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, stuck inside on such a lovely day when I would rather have been outside playing in the dirt. But, not wanting to risk injury or infection to my recently-operated-on hand, I opened a bunch of windows and enjoyed the breeze. A phone call from one of my sisters-in-law broke the afternoon silence. Even before I answered, I knew it was unlikely she’d call me in the middle of a weekday just to say hello. Sure enough, the tidings weren’t good. My youngest brother-in-law had died the day before, felled by a heart attack at a much-too-early age as were his father and brother (my husband) before him.
I’m all too familiar with phone calls that bring such life-changing news. The report that another loved one has suddenly been called Home puts everything else into perspective. The disappointment I was feeling about not being able to go outside was quickly eclipsed by the more pressing reality I’d been made aware of. I’m convinced no matter how many such life-altering phone calls I receive, they’ll never get easier. My tears are quickly followed by numbness and denial – Not again, Lord! How can this be happening? – Yet death is one of life’s certainties. And those of us left behind grieve, but not as those who have no hope.
God has great compassion on us, remembering we’re dust. He reminds us through the Apostle Paul that our present troubles, which are described as light and momentary, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. He encourages us to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, while what is unseen is eternal. Similarly, Jesus tells us to store up our treasure in heaven, not on earth. Commenting on Jesus’ directive in light of loss, Elisabeth Elliot states,
“The loss of someone we love, whether by death or otherwise, brings us to the brink of the abyss of mystery. If we wrestle, as most of us are forced to do, with the question of God in the matter, we are bound to ask why He found it necessary to withdraw such a good gift. We will not get the whole answer, but certainly one answer is the necessity of being reminded that wherever our treasure is there will our hearts be also. If we have put all our eggs in the basket of earthly life and earthly affections we haven’t much left when the basket falls. Christians, being citizens of Another Country, subjects of a Heavenly King, are supposed to set their affections there rather than here – a lesson few learn without mortal anguish.”[i]
Later this week we’ll gather in a tiny South Dakota town to remember Phil, a quiet, gentle man. He never married but cherished his family and endeavored to attend most all of the weddings of his numerous nieces and nephews. As we stand in the windswept cemetery just outside of town, I’ll strive to fix my eyes on the unseen. For then I’ll see two brothers, eternally reunited and I’ll rejoice in the assurance that our treasured family circle will one day be completely restored in a Home where there will be no more tears or death or pain.
[i] Elisabeth Elliot, “The Path of Loneliness”, (Grand Rapids, Revell, 2001) pg. 59