By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy. (Psalm 137:1-6)
This past June 20, Cafecita, our dog died. We knew she was going to soon because she had suffered from end-stage congestive heart failure for about two years. The last weeks before her death, she seemed to spiral downwardly at a faster rate. The Thursday before her passing, June 16, I had taken her to the vet's office to board her with the staff since we were going on vacation and could not take her along. (We were on vacation when she passed away.) I kissed her tenderly, told her I loved her and got in my car to return home. No sooner had I gotten out of the vet's driveway, I began to cry. Something or Someone inside me, the Holy Spirit I do believe, caused me to realize that I probably would not see Cafecita again.
Through the flood of tears I began to cry out to the Lord, telling Him that I was sick and tired of separation. I was tired of being separated from loved ones who had died and gone to heaven, those who had left me behind. And yes, I was sick of having to board Cafecita, of not being able to take her on vacations with us because some places did not accommodate pets. Somehow, the acute sense of separation brought out a deep cry in my heart that caused me to passionately call out to God Almighty in a way that I had not for a while.
The psalmist who penned psalm 137 described a time in history when Israel was in captivity in the foreign land of Babylon. They were far from their home in Judea and Jerusalem, and were struggling with being separated from all that was familiar. They remembered fondly the great City of Zion, the city that for centuries had been the habitat of the kings of Israel. The homesickness these people felt was so strong that they could not possibly beget music hence, they hung up their instruments and wept sorrowfully as they reminisced about their homeland. Despite that the Babylonians greatly afflicted God's people by demanding that they sing songs of Zion, the latter could not perform. Their duress was too great. The Israelites as prisoners were suffering from an unnatural separation. They were in a place they were not destined to be consequently, they experienced great affliction of the soul.
Saints, we, whether or not we recognize it, are in a similar position: we are in a foreign land unnaturally separated from God because of sin and its consequences. Many times we suffer homesickness, a longing to be reunited with the One Who made us, our Creator. Often it comes in the form of melancholy, and yet we may attribute our feelings to depression or some other mental anguish. Notwithstanding, these are natural responses. Note what the Bible says about Abraham, our father of faith. "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10) Clearly, Abraham, along with other great men and women of God, diligently sought a land that was not of this world. He also searched for this God Who even today longs --and eventually will-- to reveal His Glory to His beloved creation.
We believers need to rightly understand that as long as we dwell on planet earth, we will indeed love our spouses, children, parents, friends and others in our lives. This is right and natural. We are also compelled to live victoriously in the spirit of being more than conquerors through Him Who has loved us unconditionally. (Romans 8:37) We are able to do this because of the reality of sonship that God's indwelling Spirit brings to our hearts. (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) Yet however, this does not negate our deepest longing to be at one with our God, the One Who died on Calvary's cross so that we mighty live forever with Him in glory. We would do well to acknowledge this as a fact so that we recognize the "tugging" that always is an undercurrent in the profound recesses of the heart.
Far too many Christians today are deeply entrenched in the things of this world. Too many are spiritually complacent while living out the "dream" of this earthly, temporal existence, short-lived though it be. Unfortunately this type of lifestyle with its corresponding mindset tends to squelch the heart's natural desires and thus precludes the ability to feel any separation from God. Moreover and sadly enough, many of these same people are terrified at the mere prospect of Jesus Christ returning to claim His Bride because that would prevent them from living their lives the way they would choose. (How incredibly selfish!) The scripture speaks of this attitude. "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?" (James 4:4-5) The truth cannot be denied. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is exceedingly jealous, and so much so that He deems His people adulterers if they esteem the world or anything in it greater than Him. This candid word must elicit a sobriety in the hearts of God's elect causing us to question ourselves. Do we truly long to see Christ return so we can be ultimately reunited with our Heavenly Father? Do we really feel any tugging in our hearts?
Saint, do you find yourself at times feeling nostalgia and not know why? Do you at times feel an unquenchable yearning for a place and you're not even sure where it is? There's no need to worry or fret. Just as the children of Israel were missing their patria, Jerusalem, that great city while they were in babylonian subjection, you're feeling a tugging for your heavenly home. There's a sense of an unnatural separation. The psalmist rightly expresses this life on earth while also yearning for that eternal home. "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-7) May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by His indwelling Spirit pour out the pools of Living Water to refresh us as we go from strength to strength, until He calls us home and this unnatural separation ends forever.