You Can Never Go Back

When I was a little girl I loved the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven. I laughed. I cried. I watched it over and over and over again. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching this glorious children’s movie, I’ll give a little recap:

Marie is an orphan. She wants nothing more than a family who will love her. She is, however, held captive by an evil bulldog named Scarface. Scarface appears to run a really happinin’ casino for dogs. Dogs pay in meat and hope to get a really good jackpot of dog bones. Scarface is cruel and brutal. He tries to get Marie to steal from unsuspecting passersby while promising her a home. Eventually Itchy, a high-strung dachshund, and Charlie, a manipulative and cunning German shepherd, escape from prison (the dog pound) and come back to take over the casino. Scarface isn’t too happy about the return of his old friend, so he stages a fun little party, gets Charlie smashed, and then runs him off of the dock on some large body of water…probably a river…and Charlie dies. Charlie goes to heaven and meets a sexy pink whippet angel. She sings songs to the bad boy who really doesn’t want to be in heaven. He finds his life-watch and rewinds it, much to the dismay of said angel whippet, and flashes back to life. As he is going through all the light and craziness making his return to earth you hear the angel’s voice, “you can never come baaaack. You can never come…baaaaaaaack…”

The rest of the movie is history and really doesn’t pertain to my post at all. The whole point is: Charlie can never go back to heaven. He left to get revenge on Scarface and live his miserable life. He is willing to throw away his one shot at heaven for payback.

“You can never come back” is such a daunting phrase. It’s true, though. Once you leave, you can’t go back, not in the way you would hope, anyway.

Five years ago the hubster got a job and we hastily moved from Wisconsin to California. We didn’t spend much time thinking about the cost. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the cost. My life was already changing so much in every other way that I welcomed this change in scenery. Five years later I still hear the whippet angel saying, “you can never come back!”

I have spent five years longing to go home. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. I’ve probably spent more like the last four-and-a-half years wanting to go back home. Some days are better than others, but I generally have missed my friends and family. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that the whippet’s words aren’t just for dogs and heaven. It’s for people and their homes too.

If I ever go home, it won’t be the same. My friends and families have all been living lives that don’t include me. Aside from the periodic phone call, text message, email, Facebook shout out, or visit, our lives have become so separated that I wonder what would be different if I moved home. Would we hang out often? Could we really pick up where we left off? Could we really return to our old church family? Would I like the schools? Would I be bored?

For the longest time I thought moving back home would be the solution to the loneliness I felt here. More recently, however, I’ve wondered if moving back home wouldn’t be more lonely…a special kind of lonely…the kind of loneliness you feel when you’re surrounded by people you know and love…but still have no one to talk to. At least you expect that when you’re a stranger. Well, I didn’t expect that when I first moved here, but I did learn very quickly that it’s what you get.

A few weeks ago Josh and I were talking about what I’d do if something happened to him. I’ve always said I’d move back home. Where else would I go, right? I would want to go to a place where I’m loved and have a strong support system. Now I don’t know what I would do. I can’t imagine staying in California without him. It sounds too painful…and he is, after all, the reason we are here. I do have friends here, though, and I can’t imagine going through a tragedy like that without them. I can’t imagine picking up and changing everything, for my kids too, to go back home. It would be like running away to a place that isn’t the same. You can never go back and expect it to be the same. You can’t just pick up where you left off. You can’t just expect everyone else to just drop their lives and help you pick up the pieces of yours.

In this place, though, I feel like I’m neither here nor there. “Home” isn’t home…but this isn’t home either. Maybe this is God’s way of reminding me that this earth is not my home. Maybe this is God’s way of teaching me to “store up [my] treasures in heaven.” Maybe God is going to split the waters and show me a clear path to wherever home is. Maybe I’m like the Israelites after leaving Egypt and hanging out in Succoth (tent town). Maybe God is teaching me that I need to be ready to move at any moment. Maybe my whining and wondering and discontentment is just making the 40 years in the wilderness more miserable. God promised the Israelites that he would lead them to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” I’m just worried that he is going to leave me out in the wilderness forever. Am I destined to wander? As of this moment I have no idea what my future holds. I do know, though, that God has it all in his hands. I know he has it worked out. And I know that I can’t go back.

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