Here’s a paradox about human
nature: we look for home in a world where we never feel fully and restfully at
home.  That paradox explains why even the
most settled and contented people have moments when they wonder if they will
ever arrive where they most want to be. 
It’s why everyone can imagine what it would be like to be an exile—how
it would feel to live in a place that seems a long way from home.
Almost all of us ache for a truer
experience of being known, welcomed, and loved—a greater sense of being home.  That ache has important lessons to teach
us.  As C. S. Lewis said: “If I find in myself a
desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable
explanation is that I was made for another world.”   Literary
George Steiner put it this way “We are creatures of a
great thirst, bent on coming home to a place we have never known” (Grammars of Creation, p. 20).
We’ve all been parched by that
great thirst, and we know about unmet desire, unsatisfied longing, and
unfulfilled yearning.   There’s a refugee
in all of us.  We want to go home. 
The prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 29) once told a band of exiles
that they would have to make their home in a place that wasn’t their home.  In the place of your exile, he wrote:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens
and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives
for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and
daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the
city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord
on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
There are steep challenges in these
instructions.  For one thing, God called
the exiles  to love and pray for their
enemies:  “Seek the welfare of the city
where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord ion its behalf, for in
its welfare you will find your welfare.” 
The exiles would live in peace, only if they made peace with their
enemies.  Their gardens would flourish
only if the conditions were right for everyone’s garden to flourish.  Their destiny was lined to their neighbor’s
destiny, even if their neighbor was also their captor.  Like Jesus centuries later, Jeremiah said: “Love
your neighbor and love your enemies, even when neighbors and enemies turn out
to be the same people.”
When we make our home in exile,
we don’t pretend it isn’t exile.   We
love our enemies, but we recognize that they are enemies.   They
might become our friends, but they might forever be our enemies, but we love them
nonetheless, which means we pray and work for God’s best for them.  We still yearn for and seek our better and
true home.  When we live by mercy in
conditions of brokenness, we don’t minimize the brokenness, but we do make the
most of the possibilities for restoration. 
We seek peace, but we seek it because we know we don’t have it. 
For another thing, God urged the
exiles not to keep postponing their lives—the time for them to live their lives
was while they were alive–which was the present moment. 
It’s easy to defer and delay our
lives, because the conditions aren’t right. 
After all, we’re not yet home.  The
irony is, however, that change doesn’t happen if we wait on the conditions to
be right.  The only way to effect change
in the present and the future is to immerse ourselves fully in the present
As we live creatively and
faithfully in the here and now, we take heart from the knowledge that we will
not always live in exile.  God has
promised to take us home.  Jeremiah’s
letter to the refugees included this encouragement:  “
thus says the Lord: ‘Surely I know the plans I have for
you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for
harm, to give you a future with hope. . . . I will bring you back to the place
from which I sent you into exile.’”
There would be a home-going and a homecoming for the
exiles.  And there will be for us,
too.  We won’t so much go “back home,”
but forward, at last, to our real home—the place we belong, which is the place
that satisfies the longings of our being.

In that true home, love
puts our fears outside the door. Hope sings to us amid all the suffering and
dying.  Mercy gathers up the shards and
fragments of our shattered hearts and puts us back together.  Grace holds us while weep over our painful
regrets and shed our shameful tears, and, having cried ourselves into weary
silence, continues to cradle us while we rest. 
And, joy surges in us, an inexplicable but undeniable joy.