Absence + God = Heart Grows Fonder
I have been back a couple of days now from my first trip back to Europe in four years. My head is still spinning with all the great experiences I had there and all the profound things I felt God teaching me. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks, at least, before I feel like I have begun to unpack all of what I learned. However, even in the short amount of time since I returned, I have realised one thing which has really moved me.
There is an old American proverb, which states that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. I think I stumbled across this for the first time while Liz and I were engaged, and spent almost a whole year living in different cities. Thankfully, those days are behind us now – and the longest I spend away from home is a few weeks at a time rather than a few months.
However, on returning to Australia after this last trip, I realised that my trip away had indeed made my heart grow fonder for things back home in Australia.
First of all, I am glad to report (!) that I did indeed miss my wife and kids – and this, even though we have been married for almost 10 years now! As a man, it does me no harm at all to realise that I have feelings every now and again…
However, I was also surprised to realise that I was actually really glad to come home – to Australia. As I said, this was my first trip back to Europe and the UK since we moved to Australia four years ago. I was a bit apprehensive about heading back. Would I realise that I actually missed living in Europe? Would I want to move back there, once I had seen again all the places we used to live and reconnected with some of our good friends? Or, would I actually realise that I didn’t miss living in Europe at all…and how would I feel about this?
Even while I was away, I really enjoyed meeting other people from Australia and hearing other people’s experiences of mission, community and church planting – in Australia. And as I was looking out of the window on the flight back home – looking down on the great expanses of pasture and desert in Western Australia, with roads and rivers stretching out across the red earth as far as the eye can see, I realised that I really do have a new sense of being at home – here in Australia. And I am sure that this goes beyond just my interest and love of wide open spaces! I think that God has indeed given me a love for this country, and a strong sense of belonging, and of being at home, here – in Australia.
Thirdly, I also realised while I was away how much God has given me a love and passion for our small yet growing church community at Barney’s. While I was in the UK, whenever I heard great stories of what God had been doing through ordinary people, I couldn’t help but think of our community back here in Launceston – hoping and dreaming of what God might do through us. I realised again just how much God loves the local church – his people, his sent ones. And I realised that God has been giving me a stronger love for his church, and for our local community of missionaries at Barney’s. These are the people God has called me to be with. This is our family. Right here. Right now. And for a good few more years to come.
It seems that the old proverb is true after all – absence makes the heart grow fonder.