We have lived in our home in Taipei for nine months, the longest in any one place for the past three years. This “longevity” does not prevent the fear of some looming uprooting. We moved twelve times in a span of two and half years, so experience leaves an unconscious imprint in our hearts that tells us what to expect next. (The nomadic lifestyle began in earnest when we finished seminary. A pastoral job and preparation to be global workers led us to several different cities and many different places to call home.)
At each house or apartment I resolutely unpacked everything, decorated the walls with my grandmother’s paintings and the children’s art, and brought cookies when meeting our new neighbors. I made each place a home, even if it would not last long. Except for the time we left a tiny moldy house that still gives me shudders, I grieved the loss of each home and the life we had built there when it was time to leave.
In the midst of this, a family member told me that she would be a raving maniac if she had to move as many times as we did, especially in the midst of two pregnancies and births and then with three small children. It comforted me, because it affirmed the difficulty of it.
It is hard to describe the turbulence of soul that comes from being on the move and always unsettled. You cannot be still and breathe deeply. You cannot love the wild-growing front-lawn tulips too much, or the way the sunlight turns the living room into a golden elven forest in the afternoon. They will soon be gone. With every big move, you are the new person all over again, trying to make friends at double-speed, weary of explaining where you came from and why you are here.
I grew up in one place—but that house was filled with chaos and cruelty. It was not a home. Without knowing it, even then I longed to be home. I kept subtly searching for a place that tingled like a phantom limb; it had to be there—my entire being reached out for it! Was it only an untouchable dream?
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28).
I reflect with some self-pity, perhaps like Peter, that we have left our family and our friends and our homeland to follow Christ. Following Him is the only option; or at least, it is the only option that makes any sense to those who take Him at His word. Running forward to flee a burning house is scary, but standing still to be suffocated and burned is much worse. The Christian life of obedience is not always as daunting as escaping a burning building, but a lifestyle of disobedience is certainly as fearsome as burning alive.
Obedience to my Lord is the only path I want to walk, and I know that dying to myself is the only route to happiness. Even knowing this, my heart is sorrowful in the midst of loss. I have wanted a home to be a haven and launching place for my family. More than that, I have longed to be home; but the home I seek cannot be found in this life.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–30)
Jesus’ words, though demanding, are a balm to my soul. The ESV Study Bible notes that, “Jesus assures the disciples that they have answered the call and are blessed.” This pain is not a logistical problem; it is rather a sign of answering His call. The eternal gain is incomparable to the fleeting losses. How literally has this promise been fulfilled in our lives! We have been welcomed into the physical homes of fellow believers when we were in need, and our brothers and sisters in Christ are our family in every way.
Ultimately, we await our eternal home and eternal rest, with our God who chooses us as His people, where there will no longer be sorrow or loss.
Questions to consider: How do you make your home “a haven and launching place for your family” in the midst of transition?