It’s official … I’ve now returned to every place my family lived as we trekked across the United States as part of my Dad’s railroad career. Being a railroad family is much like being a military family. Every two to three years, it’s time to pack it all up and move on to the next assignment. The dreaded transfer comes through. On the railroad, it was official when the Form 2120 was signed.
Once the transfer is official, you leave the things that have grown familiar – friends, schoolmates, church family, neighborhood, shopping, etc. – and then start over in a place that it is totally unfamiliar. And about the time the new place becomes familiar, it’s time to move again.
My Dad’s move up the corporate ladder took us from our roots in East Texas, to Memphis, Tennessee (during the time when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated), then to Collinsville, Illinois (where the families of the St. Louis mob bosses lived), then to Eugene, Oregon (the weirdest place we ever lived), then to Redlands, California (at the eastern end of the LA sprawl), and finally off to Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
We lived in a lot of houses and attended a lot of schools during that time. So many, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all of them.
I’m a very nostalgic person and have long wanted to see all of those places again. With a visit to Eugene this week, I’ve finally managed to get back to every place we lived along the way. And you know what? None of them are home.
Yes, my family lived in each one of them and we experienced happy moments in all of them. But none of them are home.
You see, every one of those houses now belongs to someone else (except the one my Dad still lives in today). The neighborhoods have changed. The trees are bigger, or gone, or new ones planted. The houses are now different colors than they were when I lived there. The schools I attended are there, but seem somehow smaller – and certainly older – than they were back then.
Most of the towns have grown, some to the point of being unrecognizable. Areas of town that once were nice are now not-so-nice. Places of business that we frequented are no longer there. It’s just not the same.
Friends I had back then have long faded from memory. I can’t name but one or two along the way. We had some great times, but they were a long time and thousands of miles ago.
Even the house I lived in during high school, where my Dad still lives, isn’t home. When my Mom passed away, the magic of home was gone. I love my Dad more than words can express, but without Mom, that house is no longer home to me.
So none of my homes growing up are home anymore.
I have my own home now with my wonderful wife and children, but even that home is not my real one. Someday, my kids will move away and start their own homes. Then, inevitably, death will claim my wife or me, and my kids will eventually realize that they, too, can never go home. And the cycle repeats.
As a nostalgic person, this makes me more than a little sad. But in the grand scheme of things, there is no need for sadness. You see, this world was never meant to be home anyway. This whole, seemingly-real experience is but a temporary assignment. No past, present or future home on this earth is or was ever intended to feel like a lasting one.
The nostalgic, longing-for-home feeling within me – and everyone, if truth be told – was put there by God Himself. He wants us to long for our true home, just as He longs to have us join Him there. There is nothing on this earth that can ever fill our longing for home. Only when we find ourselves in the presence of God will that feeling be satisfied. We were made to be with Him.
And as a baptized believer in Jesus Christ, I have the hope of spending eternity with Him.
One day, my final transfer will come through and it will send me packing to my REAL assignment. And then, all of the longings for home that I’ve had while here in this life will be satisfied.
For then, I’ll truly be home.