God chose to take my little-child hand and make me His before I was old enough to comprehend the enormity of it. So that I remember no struggle over salvation, only increasing wonder, as I began to understand my need of it, that it was already mine. It has seemed a bit like trickery sometimes: I was inescapably His before I knew what being His actually meant. I signed up to go to heaven, not to be made uncomfortable on earth. Mightn’t it be easier to be a little less entirely His sometimes? His for eternity, certainly, but my own until then, when it is convenient for me, so as to feel less of a stranger in this land where He has called me to be an elect exile.
Being an exile grows tiresome; I’m wanting always to be at home. I have wanted it, I think, ever since I was seven and we moved to Massachusetts. He made me His when I was six. Perhaps I didn’t recognize the home-longing, then, as a part of my exile-hood; I don’t think I knew yet I was an exile, though I remember singing that “this world is not my home” on a Sunday evening at our church in Massachusetts. I learned it as we moved away from Massachusetts, away from Texas, away from Tennessee. However much like home it may begin to feel, this is the world of goodbyes.
In crooked writing on a pink-lined notebook page I wrote about leaving Massachusetts: Moving is hard. You leave your friends. I drew a moving van and two ungainly girls with enormous tears dripping from their faces. In speech bubbles, they say “Goodbye;” they are labeled “Stacy” and “Elizabeth.” The month before we left Texas I cried in my bed at nights, asking God to give me someone I would really miss when I left, someone who would really miss me. And in Tennessee, I began to think that at last this was home. But it wasn’t.
No home here; only goodbyes. And this is why those commended in Hebrews 11 made “it clear that they [were] seeking a homeland”: because as a homeland, this is a very poor place. The goodbyes exist here, whether you are an exile or not. Naval orders would have come even if He had not claimed me when I was six; people get new jobs, start internships, go away to school and away from school.
However little I like being a stranger here, I’ve known, always, that I was on my way somewhere else, that I had a homeland. Before I felt its lack, it was mine. I put my little-child hand in His, and He began to lead me before I knew that I would want a hand to hold along the way; I had His promise of a tearless morn before I knew there would be tears. And if sometimes I wish His hold were less tight, His leading more lax, I am like a little child still: willful, ignorant of that which is for my good, and always running back to cry in the arms with which I struggle.
©2015 by Stacy Nott