I spent the last two weeks visiting my in-laws in Durham, North Carolina. It’s a small city of around 250,000 with beautiful forests throughout. Nearby Raleigh is close to 450,000 so the area doesn’t feel that small. It’s still funny to this local Hong Kong kid as Shatin, where I grew up, is around the same size as Raleigh and Durham put together. Durham is my wife’s hometown since she lived there from age five all the way through university. Durham is also where I last served as a pastor for the 2 1/2 years prior to moving to Hong Kong. Between visiting there for the last 15 years of knowing my wife, getting married there, and ministering at a church there, Durham feels like home to me.
At the same time, Hong Kong will always be my home. I was born and raised in Hong Kong. My parents have spent almost their entire lives here. They have invested most of their energy seeking to improve life in this city through politics and education. After 20 years in America, I joined the many returnees in finding their way back home to Hong Kong. When I visited my sisters in America I asked them what they missed about Hong Kong. Of course, they said that first and foremost they missed the food! You just can’t get the same quality dim sum, Chinese seafood, and wonton noodles in America. Recent protests have, surprisingly for me, fuelled a pride in my city that I thought international schools and living abroad had put to sleep. Hong Kong feels like home.
Home is such a funny word. On one hand, it simply means the place where you live or where you grew up. On other hand, we talk about feeling “at home” in certain places or with certain people. Like many in our church, a lot of different places and people feel like “home”. Sadly, it is also true for me that nowhere feels like home. In fact, I feel most at home with my own family – my wife and three boys. But even in my own family, I can feel like an alien without a home.
I think many feel this “homelessness” as well. We can spend so much energy looking for the place or the people that we can call home. We can live under the illusion that when we have our own family then we will feel at home once more or for the first time. Scriptures teach us, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” (1 Peter 2:11 – The Message) “Don’t make yourselves cozy in it” seems to sum up so well so much of what we do in this life. We are often trying hard to find a way to feel cozy in this world. We keep looking for something to fill the ache to belong, to be accepted, to be at home. We work hard, date hard, parent hard, with the hope that the harder we try the more at home we will feel. But God reminds us that this world cannot be our home. Those of us who feel the depths of that homelessness can better look to God to be our home – to long for the home that He is preparing for us.
How would your life change if you realised the things you were doing motivated by a desire to feel at home? How would it change the way you work? the way you relate to people? If you can identify those things then you have an opportunity to look to God to fill that homelessness you feel whenever those things come up. Jesus is more than willing and able to fill it. And when you begin to experience that filling then you are empowered to live, not for this world, but for the God who is preparing for you an eternal home with Him.
“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16 – The Message)