I don’t remember where exactly I met Catherine Campbell the first time – probably online before we met in person at the Christian Resources Together retreat. She’s just gorgeous, filled with a deep love for God and willing to share her wisdom and empathy. She and her husband have known grief and suffering, as you can read in her books, but they’ve known the comfort and hope that the Lord gives as well. I love her thoughts on home, written while she was jetlagged after a trip to Australia.
By the time the cabin lights dimmed, the drone of the engines pitched at my brain like supermarket background music.
The inflight magazine encouraged drinking plenty of water and engaging in certain exercises to enhance comfort during the fifteen-hour flight. Dutifully I rose to my feet to see if complying might reduce my aches and pains and result in some much-needed sleep.
I felt silly, stretching and twisting in the narrow gangway. I needn’t have, for few of the four hundred or so passengers accompanying us on this journey even noticed my antics. Instead, they slept, or at least feigned sleep, snuggled up in blue blankets; eyes masked with written orders of ‘Do not disturb’ or ‘Wake me for meals’.
And I couldn’t help but wonder where all these people were going as we crossed the heavens together. Perhaps they were heading home, business or pleasure now complete. Maybe sickness, death, or personal heartache had forced them to buy the ticket. Or could it be joy, love, or a family vacation propelling them across the world in this crowded bus in the skies? One thing I did know… behind each mask was a story as individual as the person wearing it.
The man seated between me and the window was heading to Germany to meet up with his father. The person occupying the same position on our outbound flight to Australia was on his way back to New Zealand after a family wedding in Ireland.
He’d been home, but was now going home.
Funny that. We often look at home as being a place, but it rarely is.
I’m not a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ person. While I understand that to some people the physical sights, sounds, and smells of a certain building are very significant in marking out home for them, I’m the complete opposite.
Home for me is people. Those who love me, accept me, laugh with me, make me feel safe, and are there to dry my tears. Home is the people who know me best, and love me still; the people my heart tells me that I can’t live without.
That’s why when our final flight landed in Dublin it wasn’t a certain redbrick building in Coleraine that made my heart jump with excitement, but the reunions I was looking forward to. Breakfast with my parents on the journey back; holding our grandchildren after missing them for three weeks; chatting with our son and daughter-in-law; catching up with my sister.
When we finally fell into bed later that night it wasn’t the comfort of my own duvet that told me I was home, but the arms stretched around me that have loved me for 38 years through thick and thin that confirmed we were indeed home!
And one day, when earthly goodbyes are said, I doubt it will be the grandeur of ‘the place prepared for me’ (John 14:2) that will captivate me most, but rather the Person who has journeyed with me (Isaiah 43:2) in this most temporary of residences.
Then when Jesus stretches His welcoming arms around me I will be able to say for sure: “There’s no place like home.”
Catherine Campbell is a speaker and author of When We Can’t, God Can, Under the Rainbow and other titles, including Chasing the Dawn, a new devotional coming in June. A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, she now lives in the beautiful northern town of Coleraine, where her husband, Philip, is minister of the Congregational church.