It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years ago today that we left Amman, Jordan. It feels like just yesterday sometimes, and at other times, it feels like so long ago. We lived in Amman for 15 years, longer than I lived in any other city. We raised our children there and made lifelong friends that were more like family and who we miss very much. Amman felt like home to me and I left a part of my heart there when we left.
Homesickness is not always a vague, nostalgic, almost beautiful notion, although that is somehow the way we always seem to picture it in our mind. It can be a terribly keen blade, not just a sickness in metaphor but in fact as well. It can change the way one looks at the world….Homesickness is a real sickness – the ache of the uprooted plant. Stephen King, The Breathing Method
This “uprooted plant” was transplanted in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had never lived in the South before, so I experienced some culture shock. Southern culture reminds me of Middle Eastern culture which made the adjustment a little easier. One way is the importance of family. Many “Knoxvillians” grew up here and their parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, and children live nearby. Like Arabs, much of their free time is spent with family. Another way is that Southerners, (like Arabs) are very friendly and welcoming, yet it is hard to get close to them if you are not a local yourself. There is also great importance placed on honor and shame. Keeping up appearances and not bringing shame on your family are very important in both cultures.
I’ll be honest though – I never fully felt “at home” in Amman, and I doubt I will ever feel fully “at home” in America either. Living as a “transplant” in Amman for so long has changed me. I know many of my ex-pat friends feel the same way. I think that this has helped me in understanding and embracing the reality that heaven really is my true home and this life is the journey to my final destination.
There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else…It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work…All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
I discovered what better saints than I have found before me: The full enjoyment of God is my ultimate home, but I am still far off and only on the way. John Piper, When I don’t Desire God