I don’t think it would be untrue at all to say until about 48 hours ago I hadn’t felt homesick. And I’m not talking this trip, I mean in my life. The longest I have ever been away from home is for four weeks when I went backpacking in the Middle East with my best friend, and another four when I taught English at a summer camp in South Korea.
I have been hugely fortunate in the job I have, the beautiful house and girls I live with, the friends I have made so far and I am counting those blessings. But at a moment over the weekend – and it may have been when I visited Dulwich on Sunday to spend some time in the neighbourhood my grandparents lived in – I began to feel a little ache in my heart.
Having never left home long enough to miss it, I almost didn’t know what the feeling was. But all it took was my mum sending me a photo of my dad braaing meat for lunch by the pool, with a corner of my brother’s towel (laid out for sunbathing) in the corner of the frame, for it to identify itself. The feeling I had was a longing for the people and place that I have spent my whole life loving. The familiar, that becomes so familiar through the years it becomes almost impossible to see.
The reason why homesickness doesn’t bite you initially is obvious. Everything is exciting, new, exhilarating. But what I hadn’t thought about was that in the first weeks everyone back home would still have a 100% handle on what I was up to. That changes. But it changes before the new people one meets have really even taken you in.
29 years of knowing and history is paused and begins to gather the thinnest veil of dust. You move forward, towards a bunch of strangers who will never really entirely grasp where you’ve come from.
If this isn’t an example of false advertising I don’t know what is. Reindeer would never have time to choose chocolate-oranges, they are far too busy helping Father Christmas.
And that is my solution to feeling homesick. To laugh, to keep noticing the little things and having fun with my imagination; not ignore it but not to let it rob me, and to curl up – through prayer, worship, reading, singing, serving and fellowship – in the everlasting arms of my Father God who knows me better than anyone ever could.
Also I will be back in South Africa in two months and on the beach #yes