Thursday, June 14, 2012

Home No More



After being in Bali for a week, you might think that coming back to Korea would have been a bit of a bummer. After all, we were coming back to work, to responsibility, to the place that is often considered nothing more than a necessary desert to cross.

However, this was not the case for us at all. People often feel that way. Vacation is nice. However, we almost always miss the familiar. In some way, even in a virtual paradise, it's tough to fully relax when you're not in your own surroundings. I loved our time in Bali. I am thankful for the experience, but I was so glad to be back home.

Did you catch that?

Do you see the word I used there? Home.

Korea is home, now.

I was more comfortable hearing Korean that I couldn't understand, than the heavily accented English of Bali. Korean is a beautiful language, by the way. Perhaps if you haven't been around it much, if you haven't been immersed in its poetry, it's tonal harmony, it's nuances, you don't understand. However, after spending some time here, and then visiting other Asian countries, I now have the ability to perceive the differences in a more full way than ever before. You may not understand, but take my word for it. Korean is a pretty language. On our way back from Bali, we spent 5 hours in Shanghai. After a week away from it, we were so happy to step onto that plane and hear the flight attendants speaking Korean over the PA. We instantly felt more at home, more comfortable...and I understand that this sound crazy, but it is nonetheless true.

Our bed in Bali was luxurious. It was huge, plush and soft. In fact, it was too soft. We used to complain about our bed here in Korea, that it was far too hard. Our bed back in the US was quite soft. However, after sleeping on that king-sized cotton ball for a week and walking away with a sore back, I so looked forward to my firm, hard bed.

As I sat on the bus, the airport limo shuttling us back to Pyeongtaek, I gazed out the window at the familiar landscape, recognizing landmarks and architecture. I admired the autos that shared the road with us. I read the signs written in the once foreign fonts, sincerely anticipating my arrival back at the three-floor "billa" I call home, and I came to a saddening realization - when the plane takes off this September, once we are airborn and Korea is behind us, never again will I come back to this billa. The hard bed, with its plastic box-spring, that I once hated and now love will never again be mine to lay on. Simply, after September 6, 2012, this will be home no more. I will leave behind all the comforts of familiarity, the sense of ease that comes with knowing that, "yes, this is mine." When the plane lands in California, we will step out of the jetway, walking into the unknown. Sure, we'll be living in a familiar city, with friends and family nearby. We will shop at long-missed stores and eat at much-desired restaurants, but at first - for a while, it will feel as if we're just visiting.

When we first moved to Korea, perhaps even for a year or more, I would get home-sick, close my eyes and get lost in thought, imagining that our old apartment, The Treehouse, was still there, back in Cali. If I were to just board an airliner, and traverse the thousand-million miles back across the ocean, that home would be there waiting for me - the photo wall, the red-and-black kitchen, the fuzzy rug, the "cuarto del artes", our fluffy bunny-friend Havarti... Now, after 4 years here, it will be this place that I become home-sick for. I'll sit in the backyard of my in-laws beautiful house, overlooking the rolling hills of the Napa Valley and as insane as it may sound, I'm sure I'll find myself home-sick for my little village, my classroom, the rice fields on a hot July's day, my old-busted car, the old ladies working in the garden, our apartment and most of all the friends left behind. For a while, I'll close my eyes and imagine that it's all still there, waiting on me. I'll picture myself climbing the stairs of the Sarang Ma-uhl billa, opening the door of apartment 301 and hearing the sound of my cat, angrily complaining that I've been away too long, and while his hypothetical protests may be valid I won't be climbing those stairs. This will be home no more.

A few months ago, when I first mentioned our need to make a decision about our next step in life, I quoted the early church father, Abba Antony, saying,
"In whatever place you live, do not easily leave it."

Now, looking back on this quotation, with our move back to Cali looming on the horizon, I wonder if perhaps the good Abba penned this profound aphorism upon the cusp of a move, himself. Understanding the discomfort, acquainted with the pain, knowing the difficulty of leaving a place and a people you love, he spoke out of experience and wisdom, in an attempt to save others from the hardship of homesickness, the nag of nostalgia...just maybe.

While I am leaving. I do not do so easily. I, too, know the difficulty of pulling up roots. I know I will miss dearly what I leave behind. However, I look forward to the future, believing I am being led, hoping that God has something for me elsewhere, resting in the promise that he has plans for my life and that he has covenented to care for me.

And besides, there will yet come a day, when I leave not just a house, not a city, but this world and my very body behind, bound for God's eternal Kingdom. On that day, it will matter little what earthly roots I've laid down. All ties will pale in comparison to the glory, beauty and home-ness I'll find in that place. Then, truly, Earth itself will be home no more.


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