I’ve learned that there’s value in homelessness. There’s a type of homelessness that leaves your heart aching and lost even while your body is sheltered. It’s a kind of, “homelessness of the heart”, and I fell into it several years ago.
I was born and raised in a small community in Pennsylvania; the same community that my parents were born and raised in and their parents before them. It’s just that kind of town. I probably would have given birth to my own babies in that same hospital and taken them home to that same community and raised them beside those same neighbors, too. Would have….if I hadn’t promised my life to a man who promised his life to his country. You see, I fell in love with a man who loved his country so much that he would put every single step of his future into “her” hands. And by my devotion to him, I made these same crazy promises. At 23, I left Pennsylvania.
The transition from “belonging” to “homeless” was gradual, almost imperceptible at first. I returned for quick visits frequently and my heart ached daily for the comfort and simplicity of home. It’s a feeling all too familiar to anyone who has ever lived in one place all their lives…and then leaves. A severing so distinct and poignant it could almost be mistaken for a physical severing rather than an emotional one. Not a butterfly being removed from its chrysalis, but a butterfly being removed from its caterpillar-self, being separated from the very essence of who he is, in some abstract, disorienting way.
But when the painful severing process was finally completed, I awakened to a new reality; one that I hadn’t really considered before and found quite alarming. I no longer have a home. I no longer belong to that little Pennsylvania community…could never go back…maybe wouldn’t even want to. The leaves have fallen and re-birthed from those Pennsylvania trees too many times. The fallen snow melted, then fell, and then melted again. Life has gone on without me inside each of those familiar homes for so long, the distance so great, the living of life so different. The course has been set.
You can never truly feel “at home” in a place where you have no history. In some cases, the roots that are ripped from the soil in one location are replanted in a new location. Ten, twenty, thirty years go by and those roots grow deeper and deeper. For these people, the homelessness may never fully develop. As the ties that bind them to their former home are broken, they’re replaced by a developing history in their new surroundings. The transition is challenging but natural. For a military family, the roots never have a chance to grow. Just when they finally begin to take root, they’re plucked from the soil and replanted again. It makes us strong. It also makes us homeless.
I felt sorry for myself, missing out on one of the most comforting, natural parts of human life. I felt sorry for my children, for giving them a life entirely void of permanence in their surroundings.
And then the lesson came. The way it often does: at just the right moment, in the most tender, quiet place in my heart. God saying, in the softest of whispers, “This world is not your home”. And my homeless heart smiled as it received these words, along with the enormous message embodied therein. Homelessness of the heart isn’t a curse. It’s a radiant blessing. It makes every trip to someone else’s grocery store, every wrong turn out of my own driveway, every church service in every new town a genuine reminder of something that’s difficult to pay more than lip service to. This world is truly not my home. I have a beautiful hope in my homeless heart finally finding peace and a sense of perfect belonging in Heaven someday… A person who drives the very same roads, walks in the very same front door, and attends the very same church year in and year out has a precious blessing on this Earth. But the absence of that constant sense of “home” turns my eyes heavenward daily, and that is truly priceless.
There is value in homelessness…when it’s the kind of homelessness that draws you closer to the “home” your heart was made for.
Have you ever experienced a "Homelessness of the Heart"? Please share your experiences in the comments below!