“It doesn’t matter where you move, how fast you run, or how many new identities you try along the way, you can’t escape the longing for home.” 1
– M. Craig Barnes
What made the Garden of Eden paradise was not the beauty of the garden; it was the presence of a Creator Who loved mankind. When Adam and Eve chose to defy God’s directive (Genesis 2:17), our innocence was shattered, and that divine connection broken. We were banished from our paradise home to “painful toil… thorns and thistles… the sweat of your brow” (Genesis 3:17-19). With its gate now guarded (Genesis 3:24), paradise was lost to us all—with only the yearning for it left behind.
According to Dr. M. Craig Barnes in his book Searching for Home, “It is the memory of Eden, written on every newborn soul, that makes us discontented with the place where we are” (p. 14). Throughout the biblical narrative, our ancestors were continually searching for a place to call home, a country of refuge. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Joseph, Ruth, the exiled Hebrew slaves, the Prodigal Son—all were longing for their own promised land. But, as Barnes explains, “We weren’t created to roam about the earth lost and confused. We were created to live at home with God, which is what defines paradise” (p. 13). So, no matter our country of birth, home is found in our connection to our Creator.
Our yearning for God is real. In his writings (The Pilgrim’s Regress, Surprised by Joy), C.S. Lewis described it as the “inconsolable longing” in the human heart for “we know not what.” This deep desire is woven into the very fabric of our being. When we are separated from God, we feel incomplete—yet that was part of His plan. We feel out of place here, east of Eden, because of sin. We were meant for communion with Him and our loving God wanted to redeem us, so He revealed His plan—one of salvation.
This transitional earth was never meant to serve as our forever home. But if we are “children of God through faith” and have clothed ourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), the apostle Paul tells us that “we are citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20, NLT). He also says we “must live as citizens of heaven, conducting ourselves in a manner worthy” of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27, NLT). So our “dual” citizenship entails living on earth as citizens of heaven—seeking that God’s will be done here, also, and working toward that goal. Our reward? “[W]e will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself” (2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT). In 2 Peter 3:13, Paul says that we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth” (ESV).
To get an idea of what awaits God’s children, just read Revelation 21:1-4 and 22:1-5, as John witnesses this new heaven and new earth. He was told, “God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them… God himself will be with them” (21:3, NLT). There will be neither tears, nor pain, nor death. The new Jerusalem will sparkle like a precious stone. Its gates made of pearl will never close because there will be no darkness of night. The Lamb on the throne will make all things new.
Jesus Himself promises us, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This heaven where He is always with us begins here on earth, marked by our redemption as He gives us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). “When we awaken to the identity of this One Who is with us,” Barnes says, “we discover that paradise has found us… And in that rests all of our hope.”
‘THE SOJOURNER GOD’
“But just as God was never one to settle or remain in exile, neither can He resist entering the dark wood to find us and join us on our nomadic, meandering journey… But from the perspective of heaven, there is purpose and even direction to our days. It may be hard, after all these years, to still believe that we are going to find any approximation of paradise on earth. But that is only because we have not trained our eyes to see the Sojourner God. When we awaken to the identity of this One Who is with us, we discover that paradise has found us, along the way. And in that rests all of our hope.” 2
– M. Craig Barnes
President of Princeton Theological Seminary, author, columnist for The Christian Century
by RJ Flower-Opdycke, Co-editor
1 M. Craig Barnes, Searching for Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls, Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2003.
2 Barnes, Searching for Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls.