The other day, completely out of the blue (or so I thought), the haunting melody of an old song filtered into my thoughts.
“I’ve anchored my soul in the “Haven of Rest,”
I’ll sail the wide seas no more;
the tempest may sweep over wild, stormy, deep,
In Jesus I’m safe evermore.”
Until I looked it up on YouTube that afternoon, I hadn’t heard “Haven of Rest”since I was a very young child, when my mom would listen to a radio program by the same name. Accompanied by the sad cries of seagulls, the Haven Quartet opened each show by singing this old hymn composed by Henry Gilmour in 1890. Perhaps because I was only four at the time, I don’t remember anything else about the broadcast except for the song and the crying seagulls. And the fact that the music and the gulls made me cry, every time. To this day I still feel a slight bit of melancholy when I see gulls at the beach.
I think that I also didn’t want to ponder “sailing the wide seas no more,” since my four-year-old-self equated that phrase with dying. I was obviously too young to appreciate the fact that finally arriving in the “Haven of Rest” is really the best outcome in life.
So, as I was sitting here in my cozy homeschool room high up in the Andes Mountains on a rainy afternoon, all of these memories tumbled into my mind with the sudden and unexpected recollection of a melody from over 40 years ago.
But I don’t think it was really “out of the blue” that my memory dredged up this song, and all of its accompanying feelings of melancholy. I had just finished writing a sympathy card to friends whose 25 year old daughter, always so cheerful and full of life, had recently lost her battle with cystic fibrosis.
And I was praying for a lifelong friend who, as a sweet wife and a mother to six beautiful children, was nearing her last days on earth as she fought cancer for the second time around.
So the reality of “sailing the wide seas no more” was in the forefront of my thoughts.
And this time, the memory of those crying seagulls made me feel homesick.
Homesick for a place that I’ve never seen… …homesick for the people I love who are already there… …homesick for for a day when no one will get sick or die.
I used to think that homesickness was a bad thing, and I hated goodbyes. I still dislike the goodbyes, but I wonder if maybe feeling homesick is part of God’s plan.
After all, in order to be homesick, there has to be something really amazing on the other end. We might love the place where we’re living right now, but we miss our other home.
And that feeling of homesickness might be sparked by anything, big or small…
…a song or a memory, the the death of a friend, the promise of new life…
I know that my four-year-old-self wasn’t thinking about any of these things when the seagulls crying while an old-fashioned quartet sang “Haven of Rest” made me cry too. But I wonder if God, who was already calling my name, was also planting those first tiny seeds of homesickness in my heart… a deep and unexpressed longing for my true home.
Last Saturday my friend lost the battle for her body…. but she won the prize for her soul.
She’s not homesick anymore.