Exile is part of the Christian experience. But our wandering is not without a destination.
I’ve lived a tumbleweed life: I’ve had 16 addresses, been employed at 10 full-time jobs, eight part-time jobs, and a bushel basketful of freelance gigs. I’ve belonged to 20 churches and visited too many to count as I’ve searched for an ecclesial family that I know will be home only until it’s time to relocate once again.
You might say wandering is in my blood. My Jewish forebears learned many generations ago that being anchored in a community was a luxury reserved for others. We learned to ply a life from the rickety throwaway homes at the ragged edges of other cultures, always aware that at any moment, it might be time to leave or else be killed. Without realizing why, I learned early on to keep a stash of battered moving boxes on hand because you never know when it might be time to use them.
I’m not alone. Every one of us carries a restlessness that runs as deep as the marrow of our born-again bones. Although our consumer culture often tells us the cure is to buy a new mattress, a new car, or a new tube of toothpaste, we know that the experience of exile is common to humankind. No matter where we live, we find ourselves far from home. As author Jen Pollock Michel notes, “Home represents humanity’s most visceral ache—and our oldest desire.”
As believers, this ancient desire is at the heart of our wandering. We are people who live in a state of exile, sent from Eden to make our way through a world shaped by sweat and sorrow. There is hopeful news, however: Exile is not a terminal point or a destination. Rather, it’s meant to transform us into pilgrims.
The experience of exile comes in many forms. Although Americans are a people on the move— 11 percent of …