“For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling,” (2 Corinthians 5:2, ESV)
The longer we live in this world, the more clear it becomes that there is something wrong with it. Through life experience, through sadness, through loss and grief, disappointment and despair, we discover that, no matter how good we have it in this world, there is something wrong, something broken. D. A. Carson sums things up this way: ”
There is no escape from the brute reality that, however wonderful your experiences in this broken world, others suffer experiences far more corrosive, and you yourself cannot ever believe that what you are experiencing is utterly ideal.
It is this realization that Paul is writing about when he says, “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” We want permanence. We want freedom from grief, loss, and disappointment. We want to escape the brokenness all around us, and we are all this way. We all have this longing whether we acknowledge it or not. Mark Buchanan eloquently puts it this way:
We hear the groaning in all things. In orphans. In refugees. In housewives. In businessmen. From history professors, from folk musicians. In the sated. In the famished. In the sleek, the sick, the wounded, the pampered. In victims and victors. We hear it in haiku poetry, in country–and–western laments, in street marches, in hunger strikes. We hear it in the rocks beneath the earth’s crust as they tremble and slip, in the wood joists of our houses at night as they shiver and pull, in the bones of our bodies as they shudder and twist. We hear it in our guts. We hear it in our heads. We hear it in our hearts.
Paul will summarize this truth elsewhere in this way: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23, ESV)
We groan, we await eagerly, for heaven, for immediate presence with God. This groaning is an instinct inside of us that God himself has put there when he gave us the Holy Spirit. It is a signpost and marker and reminder that we are not home yet. Here is Mark Buchanan again:
The instinct for heaven is just that: homesickness, ancient as night, urgent as daybreak. All your longings–for the place you grew up, for the taste of raspberry tarts that your mother once pulled hot from the oven, for that bend in the river where your father took you fishing as a child, where the water was dark and swirling and the caddis flies hovered in the deep shade–all these longings are a homesickness, a wanting in full what all these things only hint at, only prick you with.
When you have those moments, dear reader, when you tell yourself “this isn’t the way the world should be,” or when you see the sky at sunset awash in purple and orange and yellow and red, and then suddenly it’s all gone, embrace it. This is homesickness and its okay to be homesick, indeed this is exactly what God wants. We are just living in the shadowlands here, home awaits.