I’m back in Texas after 50-plus days away. People ask me, “I bet you’re glad to be back, right?”
I usually just respond with a nod, because on the inside, I don’t really know my answer.
At his recent retirement party, my dad told everyone in the room they had hit the jackpot by being born in America, because this nation is very blessed. He also said he hit the jackpot a second time by being born in Texas. I don’t fall far from the tree. I have been raised with American and Texan pride. In fact, I’m fourth-generation Texan, going back to the 1870s.
However, when I came back to Texas recently, it did not feel completely like home. It still doesn’t, even though Texas has been my home my entire life.
People say this feeling is common, and it’s because you leave a piece of your heart on the mission field. As corny as it sounds, it’s true. A part of my heart is still in León, but León isn’t my home, either.
When I was there this summer, I felt like my heart was being torn in all sorts of directions. I loved León and knew I was doing what the Lord had called me to do. I often thought about the day I’d go home, and I shed tears because I dreaded the thought of having to leave Mexico—my teammates, church, supervisor, friends, all the people I had met, and the language and culture with which I had fallen in love.
However, I also felt some excitement about that day, because I still longed to be with my friends in Texas for the little things and the big things. I wanted to be there as they got married, made more memories in everyday life, and celebrated birthdays and enjoyed fireworks on the 4th of July.
I loved and fully wanted to be on the mission field, but also longed to be with my close friends and family. I didn’t want to miss the precious moments and memories they were making, even though I was having my own life-changing experience in León. Unfortunately, during that brief six-week season, those two things couldn’t be achieved simultaneously. My mission field this summer was León, while my family and friends were here in Texas.
I had never felt this tension in my heart to the extent I did for the 6 weeks in León. I felt like Buddy in the movie Elf, when he’s running away and writing a note on the Etch-a-Sketch: “I’m sorry that I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies in the VCR. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere. I’ll never forget you. Love, Buddy.”
For the record, I didn’t cram 11 cookies in the VCR. I just felt slightly incomplete, missing my family and friends in Texas. But now that I’m in Texas seeing those people, I feel slightly out of place—missing Mexico and wanting to go back.
The Lord reminded me that my life is his, and that’s a sacrifice the Lord might call us to make. When we respond to the gospel by giving our lives to follow Christ, we may not have the freedom to live in the same country as all of our loved ones. He reminded me of a time I read these words from Jesus in Luke 14 when I was 16 and thought deeply about them:
“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
Giving up everything we have to follow him? I can’t think of a higher price that I can pay. Still, it’s overshadowed by the price Jesus paid for us all, laying down his perfect, sinless life for us—people who are broken, sinful and far from perfect. Everything you have? Few things are worth that, but isn’t he worthy? Jim Elliot said it better than I ever could: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
All that to say, when we follow Jesus, we surrender the right to constantly be with or live near the people that we desire. There was a deep longing in my heart to be with my family and friends. Honestly, I don’t know if that desire will ever fully go away. When I see pictures or hear stories, I still feel that longing—wishing that I could have been there. Even in the midst of truly loving the mission field, I felt it. I have no regrets about how I spent my summer, but I still feel it.
There is a reason it feels unnatural and even painful. My heart is being torn in multiple different directions. This world is not my home and I was not made for it. We were not made to experience longing and pain. We were all designed to walk in perfect relationship with our Creator, but for now, we are still here on this earth, in the tension.
I have come back “home” to Texas, but I still look forward to the day Jesus comes back and the desires of my heart are fully fulfilled—when I truly go home. No more longing, brokenness or sadness. I will be with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the presence of God for all eternity. My soul was made for that, and I cannot wait for the day that I truly come home.
Laramie T. Walton, a student at Midwestern State University, served with Go Now Missions in León, Mexico.