Getting Homesick For A Place I’ve Never Seen

I don’t think of myself as overly sentimental, but twice in three days, I’ve found myself almost in tears. The strange thing is what set it off in each case was the simplest of comments.

The first was the other morning when the Space Shuttle Discovery landed. I was watching on television alongwith a nervous nation, and we heard the NASA announcer talk the plane in to Edwards Air Force Base in California. “Discovery is at 5,000 feet….5 miles out….3,000 feet….landing gear is locked…”

Then as the shuttle touched down on the runway, the announcer said, “It’s on the ground…Discovery is home.” That’s what did it for me. I teared up, noticed a lump in my throat, and came close to losing it. “Discovery is home.” It had been a tense week from the oft-delayed launch to the scary space walks to repair the tiles, and there had been a question whether the Columbia disaster of two and a half years ago would be repeated. Our neighbors who work at the Michoud Facility east of New Orleans, builders of the booster rockets, were especially biting their nails. Now, the shuttle was home.

A couple of days later, I saw the World War II movie, “The Great Raid.” A true account of the rescue of over 500 Americans held in a Japanese POW camp deep inside the Philippines, the movie depicted the harsh conditions inside the facility and the barbarous ways of the captors. Then, as the Rangers storm the death camp, taking out over 500 of the enemy while losing only two of their own, they arrived inside the barracks where the weakest of the prisoners lay on cots. Some pulled back in fear as though facing the enemy, while others stared, unable to comprehend. A ranger said, “It’s all right now. We’ve come for you. We’re going home.”

And that’s what did it for me. “We’re going home.” Those men had walked the Bataan death march early in 1942 and had seen hundreds, even thousands, of their buddies die along the way, one corpse for every 20 yards, according to one historian. For the duration of the war, they had barely existed in the Japanese camps. And now they were going home.

Home may be the best word there is in any language. It speaks of settling into your place, among your people, surrounded by familiar things. Home is where you belong and it belongs to you. The heart is at rest only at home.

My grandmother Sarah Kilgore, who died in 1963, lived the last dozen or more years of her long life as a widow. There were times when you would visit some of her large brood, staying two weeks with a daughter here, and two weeks with one there. Eventually, though, she would say, “I need to go home.” Her son or daughter would protest. “Mama, there’s nothing there anymore. No cows to milk, no one but you.” Granny would say, “I just want to go home.”

There’s no place like it. Be it ever so humble. To coin a phrase.

This could be the reason Scripture uses that word to speak to us finite, limited, woefully ignorant humans about heaven. “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord,” according to II Corinthians 5.

David caught a glimpse of that insight. “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” he said in Psalm 23. That sounded just right to him, a place he would not mind living in forever. It sounds like home.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms,” Jesus said, rhapsodizing on the theme of David. He continued, “If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14)

Home. The Father’s house. A place prepared for us. It gets more and more fascinating.

Once Jesus foresaw an occasion when all the people of all the nations will be gathered before Him in judgment. As He separates them, He makes two pronouncements concerning the future abiding places of the two groups.

To the faithful and obedient,the Christlike, Jesus said, “Come, you blessed of my Father. Inherit a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” What a fascinating way to describe Heaven. A kingdom prepared for us from the very first.

To the unfaithful, the disobedient, the uncaring, Jesus said, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity into…”–are you ready for this now?–“into a place prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25) Hell. Not made for people. Created for the fallen lucifer and his demons.

Any person who goes to hell will be forever out of place.

Those who go to heaven will find themselves more at home than they have ever been here on earth.

The writer of Hebrews thought about the saints of old who put up with so much abuse and hardships, and yet who struggled faithfully to live for God, and this without a Bible or the indwelling Holy Spirit or the church, all standard equipment in believers since New Testament days. He concluded, “Here we have no continuing city.” No place where we can settle down and really call our own. “But we are seeking the city which is to come.” (Heb. 13:14)

In a western novel, a cavalry troop is in pursuit of a gang of desperados. After days and days of hard riding, they were running out of food and water, when one of the troops said to the sergeant, “Shouldn’t we turn back now? While we’re still able to make it home?” The grizzled old veteran said, “No,we’ll go as far as we can with what we have. Because, soldier, a man will always find a way to get back home.”

Are you fearing death? Well, quit. Get your life right with the Heavenly Father by repenting of your sin and putting your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Confess Him as your Lord and Savior and determine to live the rest of your days for Him, whether they be few or many. And leave the after-death business to Him.

I don’t know a lot about what’s on the other side of death, but I do know who’s there, on the other side of that dark mist. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself awaits us. My trust is not in myself or in the Baptist way of life and most certainly not in any good works I may have accidentally got right. Just in Him.

As for this life, Jesus Christ is my Lord.

What about after this life? I say with David in Psalm 17:15, “As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with thy likeness when I awake.”

Homeward bound. That’s me.

6 thoughts on “Getting Homesick For A Place I’ve Never Seen

  1. Dr. McKeever,

    What a beautiful article. I just received some awesome photos from a friend of mine of the shuttle landing and of some of the things done while in space and then I opened your email and read this. Thanks so much for being who you are and the sensitive individual you are and one who is truly in touch with the Lord and follows His directions.


  2. Bro Joe,

    You never cease to amaze me. God has given you such a special gift. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us your wonderful insight. I always look forward to receiving your emails. Thanks again and God bless you!

  3. Beautiful article. I have also reached the age of tearing up over many things including the phrase “Discovery is Home”.

    You are no where ready to go to your permanent home — there is too much left for you to give those of us who need your wisdom which has come with your years.

  4. I just wanted to share with you of a dear friend that went home just last week. His name was Rev. W. G. (Rusty) Robetson. He had been in the pastorate more that fifty years and in late June or early July of this year he was hospitalized for a kidney stone and while in the hospital it was discovered that he had cancer of the spine and lungs. He only lived eight weeks from that time. Bro. Rusty was 81 years of age and was loved by many everywhere he went. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Monroeville, AL for 30+ years and after retirement he began to do interim work for small churches and was actually pastoring a small church at the time of his homegoing. I have been an associational secretary for 21 years and Bro. Rusty was always faithful in his ministry to anyone that needed him. He will be missed greatly but I know he is at home.

  5. > I did cry when they said the shuttle was home. I have a very intense

    > relationship with space launches/landings. Alan Shepherd made his

    > first spaceflight on the day of my grandfather’s funeral. My father

    > had gone somewhere to do something, James had gone to pick up his

    > parents, and my mother said to me, “I wonder if Mr. Shepherd made it

    > out there and back all right.” “Would you like me to turn on the

    > television and see?” I asked. “I

    > don’t think Daddy would mind, do you?” was her response. I told her I

    > didn’t think he’d mind. We turned on the tv, and because of delays, they

    > were just ready to launch. We watched. We were terrified when the

    > blackout

    > came. We rejoiced when he was re-acquired. We rejoiced more when he

    > landed

    > safely in the ocean, and even more when he was picked up. Just the two of

    > us together on a very sad day.


    > Interestingly enough, I had been concentrating so hard on being strong

    > for mother and my grandmother that I was totally unable to cry about

    > my adored grandfather’s death. Many months later, when Gus Grissom

    > landed, I was driving down the street, listening on the radio. When

    > he landed safely, I started to cry — so hard I had to pull over. I

    > realized that part of it was relief at his safe return, but that most

    > of it was for my Grandaddy.


    > See why I’m emotional about the space program?


    > Ann W. Allen

  6. Thanks for your article. Enjoy being a regular reader. My grandparents were Kilgores. I’ve always wanted to be kin to someone famous!!! I write a weekly article too – similar to yours but not as indepth. I heard you speak in Al at writers conference and enjoyed your comments. That’s when I signed up for your article. Thanks again. Camille Anding

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