I don’t like to travel any more.
There was a point in my life when traveling was a very glamorous proposition. Sleeping in hotels, eating in restaurants, picking up and dropping off the rental car, chasing the elusive “A” status through Southwest Airlines – I loved it all. But something has shifted.
Call it old (or middle) age, call it maturity, call it curmudgeonness – whatever it is, traveling has become more and more difficult for me. So when I found myself earlier this week on a trip across the country, I felt a really acute sense of homesickness trying to go to sleep in a strange bed away in a strange room and in an unfamiliar city. It strikes me, though, that this sense of homesickness is also an opportunity for reflection. As much as it’s a struggle, and at the risk of over-spiritualizing a simple feeling, moments like these can actually propel us to remember whose we are, what we are here for, and where we really belong.
Is it really too much of a stretch that fairly common occurrences like this can be used by the Holy Spirit in a redemptive way? That some longing or feeling or notion is something more than just that longing or feeling or notion? That it’s actually there to remind us that something isn’t quite right, and then to refocus our attention on what our true and greater need and satisfaction is?
In the case of homesickness, it’s an opportunity for us to confess to the Lord that this temporary feeling of homesickness is really just a shadow of our longing for our true home. That what I’m feeling in a strange city is a reminder of what we feel everyday – that we have another home we are currently away from. If homesickness is one of those instances, let me give you a couple of others:
Jesus knew what it was like to be hungry. Really, really hungry, in fact. In Luke 4, we find Jesus prior to the launch of His public ministry. He has spent 40 days in the desert, and during those 40 days He has not eaten. Anything. And that’s when the devil comes to tempt Him.
Why then? Presumably because hunger brings weakness. Perhaps there was a notion in the head of the enemy that he would find a depleted Jesus, one whose vulnerability that had been heightened by the lack of food. Assuming that, this hunger was what the devil seized upon: “You’re hungry, aren’t you? Well, aren’t you the Son of God? If you are, then just make some bread out of these stones.”
But Jesus was not weak. And His response reveals that hunger can serve a similar purpose for us—that when we hunger physically, we have the opportunity to turn our eyes upward: “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:4). When we are hungry, perhaps our first response should not be to reach for a hot pocket, but instead to confess that our greater hunger, whether we recognize it or not, is for God and Him alone. The physical feeling illustrates a spiritual reality and we confess with Jesus that only God can truly satisfy.
I feel tired. A lot. Some days, especially just in or out of the bed, it feels like I’m walking around in a haze. You know the feeling – the feeling that between being a spouse, an employee, a parent, a church member, and everything else that there’s no energy left over.
But our fatigue can also be a physical marker that forces our hearts to focus on the Lord. Consider the words of Psalm 121:I life my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.
What a different picture. When we are tired, we are reminded that God is not. And we are further reminded that the reason we can lay our heads on the pillow and rest – truly rest – is because He doesn’t have to. Even further, we know that because of the gospel God has sealed us as His children, and as His children, our striving can finally cease once and for all.
Once again, the physical feeling illustrates a spiritual reality and we confess true rest can only be found in Christ.
So what do you feel right now? What are those physical sensations, and how can the physical lift your soul upward to Jesus? Don’t miss the opportunity.