For most people, the question “Where are you from?” elicits a simple answer. It’s a diagnostic, right? A way of pinning down who you are.
“I grew up in Fishers,” my husband says, “back when there was only one stoplight and tractors drove down mainstreet.” Mmhmm, people nod. A hometown boy. He knows how to get to that parking garage downtown that is cheaper and that place you should go to see the really wild Christmas light display. He still complains when the city changes any little thing from the way it was when he was a kid.
“Where are you from?” causes some consternation for military kids. Growing up, I never knew how to answer it. I mean, we might have been living in Korea, or California, or Germany, or Illinois, but I wasn’t from those places. Sometimes I said, “Well my family is mostly from North and South Carolina” but when it comes to those states I’m just enough of an insider to know exactly how outside I’ll always be. Eventually I began answering with a shrug and an apologetic laugh, “Oh I’m not from anywhere really; this is my 19th address, so home is wherever my stuff is!”
Then, a few weeks ago, I went back to my tenth college reunion. At my school every class can come back every year, and many people do. I hadn’t been back at all. Still, ten years later, as my former roommate and I drove up Witherspoon past the Street and Firestone and Woody Woo, I felt like I might cry. I have MISSED this place! I spent the weekend with my best girl friends, ran into tons of people I know, and complained about all the changes. What? They rearranged the ‘Wa! But the pickles are supposed to be to the left!!! I knew how to get places. I knew exactly what to say. I didn’t feel eccentric or weird or like a snob. When I talked about something I find interesting, I didn’t worry about saying the wrong thing or using the wrong words. I didn’t feel like people were looking at me and wondering what on earth I was doing there. Because I belonged there. At some point it hit me:
I’m FROM here.
Now I get it. Being from somewhere is a really, tremendously awesome thing. It makes me happy just to know I’m from somewhere even if it’s nowhere near where I actually live.
This made me think about how people are programmed to long for home. I think that’s because none of us, no matter how rooted, is really from here. Even my husband, living just a few miles from the house where he grew up, misses his hometown the way it used to be, and misses the people that used to live there who are gone now. It seems to me that we think we’re missing home, when really we’re missing Home – the bigger concept, the fullness of Home, the eternal.
The Bible says Heaven is going to be like a celebration feast in a great city. Maybe it will be a little like a reunion too. “Hey, isn’t that so-and-so? Look at how cute her kids are!” “Wow, I haven’t thought about him in years, I wonder what he’s been up to?”
I know it’s a little bizarre to say “I had a great time at my reunion and it made me want to die!” but in some way I feel like that little burst of happiness I got from feeling from somewhere is kind of a foretaste of heaven. If so, it’s going to be awesome when we all sit around that table and think, “YES. I’m from here.”