I used to feel homeless.
Not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense. There was a time in my life where I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I was an oddball, I looked different, I acted different, and that cast me out of society. When I was a child I was treated as a misfit, because that’s what I was. And that led me to countless feelings: at first it was a deep loneliness, which led me to an aching sadness. From there it turned to anger, and I went from being a kind but sad child to an angry and mean girl (indeed, I hurt a lot of people during that time, and I am not proud of it). And yet, no matter what I tried -and believe me, I tried a lot of things- I was still a “weirdo.” I was still a misfit. I was still lonely, and different. I was strange.
For most of my young life, I felt homeless. I had a physical home, and I had a family that I knew loved me, but there was still this ache in my chest, a burning desire at the center of my soul. I felt it as a young child, but could not name it. And as I entered middle school, that feeling persisted. I didn’t know what it was, and looking back I think it a testimony to how blind I was: I went to Mass every single Sunday, but never once did I really listen to what was being proclaimed to me. I never stopped to pay attention.
My blindness caused me a lot of sin, a lot of hard times, that persisted into my freshman year, until it came to an abrupt stop when my parents intervened (later on, I came to the conclusion that this was God’s hand in my life -but, as I said, I did not reach that conclusion until much later). It was around this time that people stepped into my life and changed it for the better; I became friends with many very special people, and met someone who would later become my best friend -God’s hand, which had always been waiting to guide me, had become a little clearer for me to see. But my glasses were still smudged; I still didn’t comprehend.
So life went on, but still I felt like a misfit. I felt like a broke traveler; I would wander from group to group, making people laugh and seemingly fitting in, but it was all superficial. I was odd and, in my mind, unnecessary; I felt homeless. I felt like I didn’t belong on earth. I was confused.
And then one day, after a hard week, I stumbled into church all by my lonesome, fighting back tears and trying to be strong all on my own. Fourteen and afraid, I sat in the pews, and as Mass began, I made a choice forged by desperation: To listen, for once, to what was being said in Mass. After all, what did I have to lose?
Mass went on and I listened -not perfectly, mind you, but I tried my best. I remember standing there, listening, just as the Gospel finished, and trying hard not to cry. The priest began his homily, and I wasn’t really paying attention until something nagged at me and I tuned in, just in time to hear him say,
…what we have heard today is a fundamental truth: we belong to God, not to this earth. It was St. Augustine who said, You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
I began to cry. I didn’t really know why I was crying, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I cried and cried until I couldn’t anymore, and I put off thinking about what triggered it until late that night (and I only thought about it then because I couldn’t sleep).
For as long as I could remember, I had felt homeless, like I was traveling to some unknown destination, wandering, and I’d felt terrible about it: I had a wonderful family who loved me beyond measure, I had a home and clothes and food, but still there was that emptiness. I’d always thought to myself how selfish can you get? You’ve got everything and you’re still complaining. But something told me my problem might just be universal; I’d seen enough tv to see that I wasn’t the only one who felt alone.
Our heart is restless, St. Augustine had said. My heart sure felt restless. I had payed attention in class, to the story of Creation, and I understood that we are made in God’s image and likeness. I understood we were made for God. But how did one rest in God? And, I couldn’t help but wonder, would that change anything?
The next part happened all at once. One moment I was doubting God, and the next moment there was a bright flash of lightning followed by a loud clap of thunder, very close to my house. I jumped, surprised and startled, my heart beating fast, and then this thought pulled its way into my mind and stayed there. Earth is not your home, daughter. You belong to Me, because I made you. I am your home; rest in me. I have never steered you wrong.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who had put that thought in my head.
Time passed after that, as time tends to do, and I began to pay attention to my studies of the Bible and of the Christian Faith with a new hope, that thought which God had given me still planted in my mind. I fell in love with Jesus, and it happened so slowly, steadily, and deeply that, in the words of Jane Austen, “I cannot fix upon the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
One day I was standing with a group of people, all in love with Jesus, just like me, and it hit me: I didn’t feel homeless anymore. I didn’t feel like a misfit, even though by now I was more of a misfit than when I’d begun my journey. I had found my home in God, not in this earth, and God had led me to make new friends, as well as strengthen my relationship with old friends -one of which became my best friend. All of these people were -are- striving for Christ, and I never would have found them if God hadn’t led me to them.
Now, present-day, God has revealed to me that I don’t just feel like a traveler; I am a traveler. We all are. We’re wanderers on this earth, but as J.R.R. Tolkien so wisely once wrote, “not all those who wander are lost.” Our final destination is Heaven! Not earth; if we feel out of place here, it’s because we are. We must journey across this earth, through our earthly life, and we must rest in God to reach our final destination, with Him. Only by resting in God will our traveling of this earth feel less like a hopeless wandering with no destination, and more like a pilgrimage. The pilgrimage.
I’m still weird. I’m odd and kind-of cringey; I’m really into God and memes. I’m a misfit, but a different type of misfit than before; now I’m God’s misfit, just as I’m meant to be, and He tells us, time and time again, “you are Mine, and so you are different: Long live My misfits.”
Romans 12 tells us, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” To follow God we have to be misfits; we have to be transformed, and being transformed means standing out, because we won’t look or act like everyone else does. It took me a long time to realize that to follow God I had to be weird; it took me even longer to actually go through with it.
If you feel homeless right now, restless and desperate, I pray that this testimony on how heaven is our destination, God is our true resting point, and how we will never feel at home until we rest in Him, serves to lead you to Christ. If you rest in Him, you’ll never stand out in a bad way. The pilgrimage won’t be so bad. And you will always be at rest.
Rest in God; surrender to Him and feel at ease, for He has placed the thought and desire in you: “Earth is not your home. You belong to Me, because I made you. I am your home; rest in me. I have never steered you wrong.”
Let Christ lead you home. Let Him transform you and listen to Him. Because just as He calls me, Jesus Christ also calls out to you: “You are Mine, and so you are different. Long live My misfits.”
May our Maker bless you always,