Since reading a poem at our church’s Australia Day celebration this week, I’ve been thinking about my attitude to my heavenly home.
The poem was written by a famous Australian when she was 19 years old, and visiting England. Although Dorothea Mackellar admired the English scenery, it was vastly different to her own land. She was so homesick for Australia, that she wrote the poem, ‘My Country’. Many Australian children learnt it at school. The words are graphic, yet poignant. And they evoke such strong patriotic emotions in her readers. Compared with England, our land is harsh in places, and yet we still love it, because it’s home for us.
Since then, I’ve been meditating on the fact that, although I’m actually a citizen of heaven, how much do I understand of it? And how homesick am I for that amazing place that Jesus told us about. God has given us some information about his home where we will go one day, but for now, I’m not longing to be there … yet.
Dorothea was a gifted, observant poet. She could express her feelings about her homeland, and show why she loved it, even its sad and haunting aspects, such as these lines:
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold
As I read those words, I was reminded of the sad images we’ve all been seeing in our news lately of bushfire damage, and the anguish of the people who’ve lost so much in recent months.
But the last words of the poem gave me pause for thought:
An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand.
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.
Dorothea believed in God. She made it plain in another of her poems, which she asked to be read at her memorial service after she died. It was one of her favourites. It’s called ‘Colour’, and in it she thanked God for all the colour he’d put in her life.
But I can’t help believing that when I die, my own thoughts will fly to another country – the one that’s mentioned in the hymn, ‘I vow to thee, my country..’. that we loved to sing at school. It was written by Cecil Spring-Rice and the final verse says,
And there’s another country I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.
Surely this is referring to the heavenly country where we all long to go. But our eyes are focussed on this place where we all live now. There’s still some good here, but what earthly country can lay claim to always having peace? Isn’t that what we all yearn for?
You may recall other patriotic songs from your childhood, but I hope every one of us can say that heaven is the place where we want to return. That’s where the most wonderful person is – our Saviour, Jesus. His disciple John recorded in his Gospel (14: 3) that Jesus promised, ‘After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with me, so that you can be where I am’.