By Laramie Walton, Go now missionary
I’m back in Texas after 50+ days away. People ask me, “I bet you’re glad to be back, right?”
I usually just respond with a nod, because on the inside I don’t really know my answer.
My dad recently retired and at his retirement party he expressed that everyone in the room had hit the jackpot by being born in America, because this nation is very blessed. He also said that he hit the jackpot a second time by being born in Texas. If you know me at all, you know that I don’t fall far from the tree.
I have been raised with this American and Texan Pride and I will always have a strong sentiment towards my heavily American and Texan roots. However, when I came back to Texas 2 weeks ago, it did not feel completely like home, and it still doesn’t, even though Texas has been my home my entire life. People say this feeling is common and it’s because you leave a piece of your heart on the mission field (as corny as it sounds, it’s true).
A part of my heart is still in León, Mexico, but León isn’t my home either. When I was there this summer, I felt like my heart was being torn in all sorts of directions. I loved León and knew I was doing what the Lord had called me to do. I often thought about the day I’d go home and I shed tears because I dreaded the thought of having to leave Mexico, my teammates, my church, my supervisor, my friends, all the people I had met, and the language and culture that I had fallen in love with.
I loved and fully wanted to be on the mission field, but also longed to be with my close friends and family. I didn’t want to miss the precious moments and memories they were making, even though I was having my own life-changing experience in León. Unfortunately, during that brief 6-week season, those two things couldn’t be achieved simultaneously. My mission field this summer was León, while my family and friends were here in Texas.
I had never felt this tension in my heart to the extent I did for the 6 weeks in León. I just felt slightly incomplete, missing my family and friends in Texas. But now that I’m in Texas seeing those people, I feel slightly out of place: missing Mexico and wanting to go back.
The Lord reminded me that in my life there will be sacrifices the Lord might call us to make. When we respond to the Gospel by giving our lives to follow Christ, we may not have the freedom to live in the same country as all of our loved ones. He reminded me of a time I read these words from Jesus when I was 16 and thought deeply about them:
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. -Luke 14:27-30, 33
Giving up everything we have to follow Him? Everything is a high price. I can’t think of a higher price that I can pay. Still, it’s overshadowed by the price that Jesus paid for us all, laying down His perfect, sinless life for us; people that are broken, sinful and far from perfect.
All that to say, when we follow Jesus, we surrender the right to constantly be with or live near the people that we desire. There was a deep longing in my heart to be with my family and friends, especially during the special times like the weddings, birthdays and the 4th of July. Honestly, I don’t know if that desire will ever fully go away. When I see pictures or hear stories, I still feel that longing, wishing that I could have been there. Even in the midst of truly loving the mission field, I felt it. I have no regrets about how I spent my summer, but I still feel it.
There is a reason that it feels unnatural and even painful that my heart is being torn in multiple different directions: this world is not my home and I was not made for it. We were not made to experience longing and pain. We were all designed to walk in perfect relationship with our Creator. For now, we are still here on this earth, in the tension.
July 16th has passed and I have come back “home” to Texas, but I still look forward to the day that Jesus comes back and the desires of my heart are fully fulfilled, when I truly go home. No more longing, brokenness or sadness. I will be with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the presence of God for all eternity. I rejoice in this description of the next life in Revelation 21.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” -Rev 21:1, 3-6