-- James Houston, in The Transforming Life of Prayer
I've been alone this week with my daughter, as my wife and son are out of town. I'm enjoying the time with my daughter, and yet, if I were to characterize my days, I'd say that in many respects I am going through the motions, doing what must be done but, except for some special moments one-on-one with my daughter (which I wouldn't minimize), I am just waiting for remainder of my family to return. I'm homesick for them. I'm really not complete, not able to rest, until we are all together.
I remember going to camp as a child. It was just a week, not so long, really, but for me it was an eternity. I suffered from homesickness not one day but all week of it. I did all the normal camp things, and seeing me, you might even would have said that I looked like a normal, well-adjusted camper. But I was not normal at all. I remember harboring thoughts of home in the corner of my mind, at the edge of consciousness, at almost all times. Then, as night fell, and we retired to our bunks, these thoughts became larger and larger. Sleep seemed to elude me for hours as I lay there thinking of home, wondering how much longer until I was able to leave and go home, listening to the other apparently clueless campers breathing deeply in dreamland. It was just me and, as I finally figured out, God as well. Sometimes I'd pray "God, please get me out of here. Please get me home." Pitiful, I know. My wife cannot identify with this particular feeling at all. She went to camp for six weeks in the Summer and then begged to stay six more weeks, something I would have regarded as near insanity at the time. (I now know this was a common experience for many kids.) She's perfectly fine.
In college I wrote letters to my future wife when she wasn't with me (she graduated before me). I still have some. They were full of longing. Once my car broke down on the way back to school from her home. I left it, hitchhiked back to her house, and stayed for three more days. I cut class just to stay and took my sweet time getting the car fixed. That's not rational, but love isn't rational. Neither is homesickness. Silly to dwell on such things some might say.
Now, am I homesick like this, or even lovesick like this, for God? Not enough. I often catch myself thinking about God as I go about the normal tasks of life. Out there on the edge of consciousness, most of the time, I'm thinking there's somewhere else I need to be, somewhere like home, somewhere where I'll be completed, at rest. But, to be honest, the intensity of that experience is felt only on rare occasions. People of prayer, people driven to pray, I expect feel it with much more intensity. John Wesley spent four hours in prayer most mornings; Martin Luther, three. Why? I suspect they were homesick for God, so aware of their inadequacy, so ill at ease in the world. They moved through their days, as I do mine, and could not help but be reminded of Christ, their Home, by every single thing they saw, heard, or touched, and then, being so aware of how far from the ideal of it they would know in glory, they were homesick for that place of glory, for Heaven. This drove them to prayer.
I don't know what those folks in Northern California were thinking when they named their town Happy Camp. We're not happy campers. Joyful, maybe, but not happy. Happy is when we go Home. Our prayers are the love-letters we send Home.