It was the pattern set when the first couple had to leave the garden. The tearing pain of departure was written into the very fabric of humanity, and so it continued down through the centuries. Some left willingly, called by faith or excitement, others left reluctantly, or in fear and anguish, but the pattern continued:
The man who killed his brother and had to flee to the east of Eden.
The man who was called forth, together with his whole family, to seek a country he had never seen, promised by God to be the inheritance of descendants he did not yet have.
The man who fled his brother’s wrath after stealing his birthright and blessing, and encountered a vision of angels in the midst of his desolation.
The man who was sold into slavery by his brothers, was taken in chains to a foreign land, rose to great prominence and eventually saved those same brothers from starvation
The man who was first taken from his birth home to be raised in a palace, then forced to flee into the wilderness to escape charges of homicide, only to return, many years later to be the leader of his people
A whole nation escaping from slavery, and from the only land they had ever known, but unable to progress to a new home because they still carried their slavery in their hearts.
A child taken from his mother’s arms to be raised in the home of an aging priest, where he encounters God whom the priest cannot hear
A shepherd boy sent to the palace of a sad, mad king, only to become a fugitive from the king’s jealousy and living as an outlaw in the wilderness
A whole nation sent into exile amongst the alien Babylonians, and discovering, in the very throes of their hearts’ hunger that they do have an identity as the people of God.
And then, because he loved us more than his own life, the Son of God came down into our humanity, leaving behind absolute glory to walk the muddy, desperate paths of our brokenness, confined to the clumsy powerlessness of human flesh. For thirty three years he entered into our exile; always carrying with him the elusive fragrance of immeasurable grace. But that was not far enough for God to go, he plunged the depths of our separation, right down to the furthest reaches of death. There was nowhere further than hell that he could go, so he did, and then returned in victory with the promise that he would bring his people home.
And still, for two millennia since, his people have left their homes. Oh, some have done it literally – forced from their homes by persecution, or voluntarily leaving home so that those who are not their own people can learn of a hope and a promise and a love that breaks through the boundaries of this world and will not be stopped.
But, really, all his people are homeless, for the shadowlands of this world are no longer enough for them, and their true home has not yet been revealed. So they wait, strangers and pilgrims, seekers after a city which is to come, and their exile has become their glory