“For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then Ezra said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength’” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Hitchhiking was something I had said I would never do.
As a small boy, I can recall our family car speeding past men standing on the shoulder of the highway with their thumb in the air. I recall my parents making comments about the dangers of doing such a thing. So hitchhiking went on my don’t-do list.
Six weeks into my freshman year in college, I took hitchhiking off the don’t-do list. I felt like a nine-year-old at summer camp. I was so homesick for my dad and mother, it was as though my heart was being crushed in a vise. Of course, no one at school knew about this. It wasn’t cool, as a semi-grown, prideful young man, to admit that I missed my dad and mom and just wanted to go home…although many of my buddies were probably homesick, too.
So I made a sign that read, “College student to Chicago,” put on a clean white shirt and tie, walked to Highway 22 right in front of our college, took a deep breath and stuck out my thumb.
To say that the next several hours were interesting would be an understatement. But thankfully, there were no criminals or perverts. Only good people who felt sorry for this woeful boy, longing for his home.
Dusk was settling on the old neighborhood. My last ride had dropped me off just a block from our house. Duffel bag in hand, my pace was somewhere between a speed walk and a dead run. I was almost home. Moments later I burst through the front door, wrapping my arms around my precious mother who had no idea that her son was coming home—much less how her son was getting home! Our tears said it all.
I will never forget the feeling of being home—my bedroom, the backyard where I had played touch football…the picture window I had perforated with my BB gun…the kitchen where our family had been whole. My homesickness had been miraculously—instantly—healed.
And then, in what seemed like a moment, I was feasting on a home-cooked meal. No unpretentious food had ever been so overwhelming.
The Israelites were home, too. After years of exile and slavery, they were back, surrounded by friends and familiar places. And of course, they were overcome with the emotion of sheer delight.
Ezra stood up on a high platform in front of the happy throng, opened the Book of the Law, and began reading. When the people heard God’s Word again—after years of being denied its public reading—they threw their hands up in celebration, then they fell to the ground in worship, then they wept like homesick college boys, ecstatic to be home.
Ezra and Nehemiah told the people to stop crying. “Throw a party,” they said. “This is no time for grieving. Put smiles on those faces. The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Every new day can be a homecoming. God invites you to leave your isolation and to bask in the delight of His presence. Wrap your homesick arms around this. Welcome home, lonely boy.
From NIV Dad’s Devotional Bible, notes by Robert Wolgemuth, © 2015 Robert Wolgemuth. Published by Zondervan.