In August of this year, I left my home in the midwest and took the leap of faith to live, study, and explore a place I’ve never been. As I write this, I have five more weeks of living in a foreign country, and while it’s becoming less foreign everyday, I’ve been homesick more than I’d like to admit.
I had a phone call recently with a friend from home who told me “I think (being away) is so hard for you because you’re such a homebody.” My jerk reaction was “uhm what, no I am not!”
I was defensive about my home-body-ness because I’ve always been infatuated with the idea of leaving my physical home and the place I grew up. Leaving home means I am bold, brave, and fearless, and I have the guts to get out and see the world. It seems to me that everyone travels – getting to go to foreign countries and experience different cultures. So why shouldn’t I? It can’t be that hard! And, also, I don’t get homesick. At least that’s what I believed about myself from being away from my physical house plenty of times without any homesick feelings. But I’ve never been gone too far or for too long.
I have never experienced such an intense strip of my sense of home. I have never been so physically isolated and alone. I came abroad knowing no one (which is how I tend to go about things). I didn’t know anyone else in my program, I didn’t have any friends studying in different cities or countries in Europe, and I wasn’t going to have any family visit during my time here.
The easiest part of this semester was leaving. I was diving into the unknown, taking a leap of faith. I wanted to leave, and I wanted to do it now! My mind was skipping altogether the thought of what it would like to actually live in a different country. All I knew was that I was leaving in August and then coming back in December.
It would be an understatement to say I was overwhelmed when I arrived. As the whirlwind of the semester unraveled, it began to sink in that I was going to be here, in Italy, for three and a half months.
Feeling the physical distance from every sense of community I have back home, I began to worry. My time here in Italy was becoming less in my control by the day. I wasn’t making lifelong friends yet, I wasn’t feeling the best I’ve ever felt, and I certainly didn’t feel brave or strong. God had a plan and I knew that it was going to be way different, yet probably more miraculous, than anything I could have planned for myself.
So began my season of surrender.
I’ve been putting off time with Jesus (my home and comfort), and I have found that home is not an earthly, physical place, but state of mind, a heart full of joy and love. Home is the people you are fortunate to surround yourself with and the community you are rooted in. It is Jesus, and how He is there with you and me, wherever you are in the world, walking with you, keeping you safe, calling you home to Him, reminding you that you are never alone – even when you feel radically separated from what you call home.
Once you have found your people, your soulmates (or soul sisters), love them deeply and hold them tight! They will break every physical barrier and distance to shed their love, light, and God’s truth onto you.
I have run far because I thought it would make me complete. I thought I needed the distance, to be brave and strong and fearless. I’ve been away from home for what feels like forever, and yet there are still a few weeks left for my time in Italy. Different from my dreams of blossoming into my own individual identity of a world traveler, I’ve learned (and am still learning) that my best self is one that is rooted in my true home. Jesus is my comfort and home base, no matter where I call home. I’m praying I remember this, even when I return home to all the comfortable places and people I know and love.
(See — more miraculous than anything I could have planned for myself!)
words by Megan Peters and photo by Sarah Mohan