I recently spent six weeks living out of a suitcase.
A suitcase, and a lot of other largely unnecessary luggage jam-packed in the back of my husband’s and my Honda Civic.
Recently we returned to this misty city, thankfully in time to catch her at the tail end of all of her summer glory. After driving more than 5000 kilometers and sleeping in 10 different beds in 5 different states, we were coming home. Home to where we know the streets and at least a few people and where it was now safe to re-incorporate, “eh” back into our daily vocabulary. My stir-crazy body, weary from loading and unloading my suitcase for the better part of the summer, just wanted to let all of my things spring out of the back of the Civic like a jack-in-the-box one last time and snugly settle into home.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tale didn’t go that smoothly. By nature of taking extended time off and stashing all of our earthly belongings in a storage unit we consequently had to endure my least favourite activity: moving. The boxes, the heavy lifting, the unholy mess–it all felt like too much. The restlessness once confined to the Civic (which in retrospect now felt incredibly manageable), quickly ate away at all aspects of my life. I just wanted to be home and this was not it.
“This is the last time I’m ever moving,” I want to swear to myself each and every time I find myself loading a truck again. I know that’s not true in this life stage, in this market, but I ache for the safety that stability brings. “This is not my home, this is not my home,” becomes my mantra through sobs. And while I realize that moving is not a life-or-death situation (though I did mention it was my least favourite activity) and soon enough the misery is over, I become fatigued by the discontent: first of packing up, then of the suitcase life, and now of trying to settle into a new space.
A constant longing and internal groaning yanks me back, which is precisely when I recognize the still, small nudge that had been steady all along reminding me that no travel, no city, no neighbourhood, no home, and no level of organization will ever satisfy me in the deepest, wholest way for which I long. For which everyone longs.
I am correct when I weep, “this is not my home.” Indeed, we are not made to shove a thousand cardboard boxes and awkward furniture into teensy Vancouver basement suites in an attempt to create ultimate security. Yet even if I had paid someone to carry every last lightbulb into the mansion of my dreams with no labour or effort required on my part, I’m not convinced I would magically settle into a sense of fulfillment and belonging. Because while we have been blessed with the gift of taking up space here for now, we’re all just on a lease.
Living in a transient state takes work; it’s exhausting. Propitiously, we live in a transient city and culture that worships keeping on the go, seeking new adventure, avoiding commitment, and changing homes, clothes, hairdos, and workout regimens frequently in order to consistently be pursuing our best selves. The work is never finished; though we may “move in,” our hearts are always in disarray. We are always exhausted, and always living in spiritual suitcases.
Undeniably, we will have to wait to fully see and understand “home” in the eternal sense actualized, but perhaps we have a greater, more realistic glimpse than we realize, even in the longing.
The good C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory, “Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”
Lewis’s words are balm to my own restlessness. What would it feel like to travel and never feel distant? Or to move and never feel disheveled? Or to never crave the upgrade but simply to rest in knowing all things pass away and to rest in enoughness?
It’s true that our trying harder here won’t get us there. Unfortunately, there is no punch card or breathing exercise or online course we can pass until we achieve this suspicious serenity. Yet God in his grace and mercy offers “healing of that old ache” as a reality new to us each morning. Free of charge, like a continental breakfast buffet. Jesus sets us a place at the (biggest, longest, most abundant, delicious, and diverse) table. A place where we unload, permanently settle, experience unconditionally acceptance and become our truest selves. Our job is simply to dwell there.
But that would be heaven, right? Where there are big fluffy clouds and the coffee is piping hot and bacon is served every morning. It all feels too distant in light of transient Vancouver’s housing prices, does it not? Undeniably, we will have to wait to fully see and understand “home” in the eternal sense actualized (and until then you can find me unpacking a lot of boxes), but perhaps we have a greater, more realistic glimpse than we realize, even in the longing.
It may be in our very ability to move, change course, create new things, and build new spaces. I think God whispers (or cheers loudly like a wild soccer mom, which is kind of how I love to picture it) messages of strength, hope, and fidelity as he leads us to unexplored, uncomfortable places. The Kingdom of God is not a boring, stagnant place. We have permission to adventure.
It may be in the mundane consistencies: cooking a meal, or putting sheets on a bed, or sharpening a pencil. We are reminded of the familiar embedded in the unfamiliar. In fancy church speak, we call this liturgy, which the rhythmic participation in God’s work here and now.
It may be in the tight embrace of the community of saints God gives us– commonly called the Church, but often expanded outside of it too. It’s like travelling internationally and discovering someone speaks your language or shares the same passport. Relationships have a saving value that when wholly plumbed can be one of the most extravagant and gracious ways God reminds us that though we currently wander in a foreign land, we are not alone.
Though we experience these shadows today, we long for the day they become flawless and concrete. And until then, yes: we will long. While I’m out here scouring the IKEA catalogue (bless IKEA, by the way) wondering how on earth to make this place feel like home, God is calling me to look up and experience glory itself–Him. The new furniture and the dream jobs and even the most beautiful cities will fade, but the Lord remains steadfast and faithful.