By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 28, 2009
When I travel overseas, I fret over too many things. What if the flight is canceled, what if the weather turns awful, and the biggest one of all: What if the invisible beings that keep the plane up in the sky take a coffee break, and we end up in the drink?
All these niggling worries eventually do get resolved. In fact, I’ve never had to face a canceled flight, and although we did have unexpected snow in England last year, it was rather lovely. As for the magical beings, they have been very reliable.
But there is one thing that always impresses me deeply on an overseas trip. It is the instant when I return to Decatur and glimpse my house again. On this last visit, we were only gone a week, and yet the moment I spotted our house, I grew tearful from joy.
I couldn’t wait to climb from the car and marvel over the changes in the yard. The fig tree is sparking little frills of green. The blueberry bushes are abuzz with flowers. But most wonderful of all, our house is still standing. It did not somehow disappear while we were away.
The longing for home is so deeply imbedded in each of us. And I can’t help but think God has put that desire in our hearts because he knows where our true home is. The yearning we now feel for our usual bed, our well-worn slippers and the cozy rituals of ordinary life hints at the deeper wish for another home. It is heaven, the place that we will arrive at one day—hopefully—and never have to leave again.
As I step through the threshold, I feel that I am seeing my home for the first time. The sheaths of light seem more generous and the trees outside larger. The floors gleam and the cushions on my favorite chair look plumper than I remembered.
I realize I have dearly missed the humble rituals of my simple life. In England, we feasted each morning on a generous array of eggs and sausages. But at home, a simple portion of oatmeal spooned into a handmade bowl has an especially delicious flavor. And that night I realize nothing tastes as fine as a home-cooked meal by your very own fireplace. Just as nothing looks as graceful as the tiny wildflowers that shyly bloom in your very own yard.
I am famous for grumbling about getting up at 6 a.m. for my library job. But upon my return home, I rejoiced to hear the pre-dawn birdcalls outside our window. These are familiar songs, and I didn’t realize how much I loved them until I was an ocean away.
Some people go to the hospital thinking it’s for a short stay and then end up there for weeks. They can attest to how much they miss their home, their dog, their slippers and their own cup in their very own kitchen.
If heaven is our true home, then hell might be an endless feeling of having missed out on something inestimably precious. Maybe it would be an eternal homesickness, a gnawing realization that the pillows will never feel just right and the birdsong will always be a bit off tune.
Hell would be the shattering sense that we took a long journey but never made it back. We never pulled up in front of the house, jumped from the car, and dashed to the front door, our hands trembling as we slid the key into the lock.
And hell would be the knowledge that we would never see the One who stands at the other side of the door, so patiently and eagerly waiting to greet us.
The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. Lorraine’s books are available at www.lorrainevmurray.com. Readers may e-mail them at email@example.com.