Rebecca VanDoodewaard is the the author of the new book Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians. She is the wife of Bill, Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and mother of three. Bill and Rebecca blog together at The Christian Pundit.
Uprooted is loaded with practical, spiritual advice on how to handle moving and the life changes it brings. Rebecca was gracious to answer the following questions to introduce you to the book. My wife and I have been encouraged by the book as we prepare to be uprooted ourselves next year, so I wanted to draw it to others’ attention. But beyond that, as part of Bill & Rebecca’s journey led them to worship and live near us for three years, they are dear friends and I can attest to the reality in their lives of the godly faith encouraged in this book.
You explain in the opening pages of the book the life factors that caused you to have to deal with homesickness and led to the writing of Uprooted. Could you share with our readers here a few of those?
My own homesickness drove me to dig into Scripture and the lives of saints from history who have dealt with homesickness. The actual writing started when the Girltalk blog once asked something like, “What inconvenience are you experiencing in your life? How is it changing what you think about God and/or Heaven?” Well, few things are more inconvenient than putting everything you own into boxes, driving the boxes to a new place, and changing your address with 101 government agencies. But the more I thought about it, the more the spiritual realities became clear. So I started a growing “note to self” about things to do, not do, etc., for the next move. That list, along with bits from e-mails that I sent to relocating friends and quotes about homesickness from Christians in history, morphed into the book manuscript, which my husband sent to the publisher without telling me.
In struggling with your own homesickness, you began to see how you could not just dwell on the natural symptoms of it, such as loneliness, sadness, being disgruntled, etc. Rather, the Lord taught you that you had to “treat” the homesickness, or in essence use the symptoms as God-given motivators to deal faithfully with your new surroundings. Though your book is filled with nuggets of practical wisdom on overcoming homesickness, what are a few of the key lessons the Lord taught you?
One would be that life is short and eternity is vast. Time here is just prep time; we have to use it well and to the max because God gives it to us as a gift to use for His glory. I think the other key lesson would be how fleeting the things of this world are but how enduring God and His promises are. Stuff comes and goes; souls keep going; God endures. John Newton put it well: “Solid joys and lasting treasures, none but Zion’s children know.” That doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy places or stuff; it means that they are put in perspective.
From the numerous quotes you give, you found a lot of encouragement from biographies of others whose stories reveal their struggles with homesickness. What is one of your favorite stories?
I love Maggie Whitecross Paton, not one particular anecdote, but more her attitude. She managed to remain cheerful and faithful and trusting despite decades of cultural isolation, primitive living conditions, and family tragedy. That’s God’s grace, and it’s available to everyone.
One of the aspects of the book I like is how you relate the idea of being homesick to the Biblical theme of the Christian’s pilgrimage. Can you explain briefly how the one can help us with the other?
In an unregenerate state, our desire is for this world; we love this world. As believers, we know that we don’t belong to this world, but we can still be very comfortable and “at home” in it. Moving around makes you feel like Christian on his dangerous journey – the physical realities parallel the spiritual ones so closely that it’s hard to miss the point. While I haven’t met ugly ogres or battled dragons with a sword, I have faced things that seemed insurmountable (like driving from Virginia to Canada and back every month for a year with two small children, or going to a wedding in another country two days before a long distance move to a house infested with fleas two weeks before another international trip with children); these things bring you to an end of yourself and you lean more heavily on God’s sustaining grace and provision. Homesickness can make you discontent not only with where you are right now, but with this tired, cursed world in general, and make you more eager for the journey to be finished.
I have heard that in the next five years, six out of ten Americans will move. So this book could be helpful to many! Yet beyond someone facing a typical career move, what are some other life situations where people might benefit from reading this book?
Well for us, moving came largely because of grad school. School is a big “mover”. Some people are refugees – the Sudanese “lost boys” are just one example of a global phenomenon. Others are forced to move because of family situations; a single mom might have to move back to her parents’ town in order to have the help she needs. Another life situation is a bad church situation; my brother’s wife came to Canada when her parents decided to move their whole family out of England to a solid church community.
Finally, I have to point out that this is how you described moving to Indiana: “When I was married with a baby, we moved from Scotland to the midwest United States: from mountains, castles, and the sea, to flatness, Wal-Mart, and a creek full of pop bottles…I hated where I was, and loved where I had been.” Ouch! Yet you ended up seeing beauty with your family even in the middle of the cornfields. How so?
Ah, yes, cornfields, thunderstorms, and fireflies all have beauty in them – the beauty of general revelation is global, thankfully! But for us, the most beautiful place in Indiana was the sanctuary of the church where we were blessed to worship with God’s people for three years. The place where your soul is richly fed becomes precious. That and the ugly kitchen in the church basement where I learned so much about food and the Christian life from the older women. Moves to some places have been hard, but we miss every place we have been.
If you would like to order a copy of Uprooted, just click the link of the title at the top.