I am walking down a long dusty road, stretched already for miles. I’ve come a long way and I am weary. Both my heels have bloodied blisters and my lips are cracked and parched. As I walk, I’m caught by the sound of a faint crowd cheering in the distance. It is loud and raucous and propels me to reach it. Each step is heavy but I am drawn to continue with new hope. The cheers increase as I move closer and I realize they see me. The applause is for me! With this new thought, I throw my heavy pack and begin to run. I no longer feel my weary body but only see the faces before me, wildly delighted. As I reach them, they are lined on both sides of the road— cheering loudly, with children on shoulders, “Natalie! Yay; you’ve got this! You’re almost home!”

I fall face down at the end of the dusty road and savor the continued cheering and pats on my back. I feel the strength of two particular hands on my shoulders and see the dusty sandals of two feet before me. I stand but cannot look up. Where am I? Who is this? I cannot bring myself to look at his gaze. His strong hands move from my shoulders to cup my face, gently lifting my head. I close my eyes as we are now face to face. My eyes open to see him—and his gentle, overjoyed, tearful eyes staring into mine. As I look at him, I fall into his chest. He envelops me with his arms and I am undone. I close my eyes again, this time with a heavy sigh that says I know I am finally home.

John Eldredge, in his book All Things New, encourages readers to write what they envision to be their homecoming. In writing this description, my imagination is captured when I recall times in life that I’ve been caught off guard by grace: during a long, rigorous hike when I eventually reach the summit of a peak; closing in on a finish line of a race overcome by cheers; feeling overwhelmed by shame when I’m met with the kind eyes of a friend extending me grace. Each of these is a glimpse of what’s to come – that instant when every moment makes sense and has redemptive worth. As it is said, “Now we see a glimpse; one day we will see face to face.”

This idea of going home to my Abba unravels me.

It’s been deeply tucked in my heart as something I’ve look forward to ever since I was a child, though it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve brought it to my conscious.

My father died very suddenly when I was eight years old. The abruptness of his death marked me in profound ways I’m still discovering. The date itself became a personal “9/11” when time stood still, and I was forever changed. Each year I experience a reflective pause that only a severe loss can bring. It makes me keenly aware that other memorable dates await me, and relationships are precious and fragile.

When I began to journal – or keep a diary, as I called it as a child – I’d write the date at the top of the page before my entry. It occurred to me that if I wrote the date of every day of my life, one of those days will be my last. And I could either dread it or look forward to it. I choose to yearn for it, like the end of a long trip that’s been both amazing and beautiful, but now, I’m ready and eager to go home. This perspective has anchored me and reassured me. Likewise, I love to share it with others who understand and don’t turn away as if I’m morbid in my thinking.

I have no doubt God chose me for a purpose on this earth, one that is unique and striking, which I’m still carrying out. But, I am also aware that one day my earthly time will be up and I will join many whom I love and dearly miss. And while I do my best to be all that I was uniquely designed to be, I also long for home.

Natalie Sum comes alive when able to sit with the stories of others. While seeking to become all she was created to be, she finds herself setting the table for groups, designing online courses or advocating for children. Natalie has a Masters in Education, Bachelors in Social Work and is currently finishing a Training Certificate in Trauma Care through the Allender Center (School of Theology and Psychology.) She loves cruising on her bike and relishing in God’s creation. Natalie resides in Schaumburg, a suburb of Chicago.