Culture, Citizenship & Hiraeth (Part 2)


Now we come to hiraeth. It's a Welsh word. You may have seen it on Pinterest with a definition. Or an attempt at a definition. Because actually it has no direct translation into English.

Hiraeth. (n.) a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

This week, in the face of much heartache happening among my friends and family in America, I am homesick for the US. But that is not hiraeth. Hiraeth is something so much more. It's knowing that I belong somewhere and wanting to be there but being unable to go because I am not quite sure where there even is. But I yearn, I long, I need to go there.

It is inherent in human nature; we all have it because we were all designed for this home. And this world just can't quite cut it. Somewhere in the past, in the history of humanity we had a home and we can't figure out how to go back to it. But oh, how we want to.

Hiraeth.

I want to go home. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my floating between cultures at the moment, this hiraeth is particularly strong. But it doesn't draw me to the United States or keep me in Britain. No, I long for a place I've never been: heaven. A home I have yet to visit with a Father I know but have yet to see.

My hiraeth reminds me that my roots, my culture, my identity are all wrapped up in Christ.

The writer of Hebrews sums it up well saying the great heroes of faith listed in Chapter 11 admitted the fact that "they were foreigners and strangers on earth" (11:13b).

So to am I. A stranger, waiting to go home. Waiting for my hiraeth to end. Confident that it will. Filled with hope at the thought of the joy and belonging I will find when it does. Content in the tiny glimpse of that I have found now, on this earth, in this place.

Hiraeth. It is a reminder of what is to come.

Oh, hiraeth. Homesickness will come and it will go. But hiraeth will remain.

Walking together, with the Father, physically present, in a garden. I see it. Past and future colliding to create this longing. My hiraeth.

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