Yesterday afternoon, with everyone suffering from travel drowsiness, we arrived safely home from our week of vacation. It was nice to be home, but maybe not as nice as I would like. There’s an old saying, “there’s no place like home”, and I suppose there’s some measure of truth to that, but the older I get and the more responsibility that my life incurs, the less I trust that kind of statement.
It’s true, there are things I know about my house that I don’t know about any other. I know where I can go to put my hands on virtually anything that I own. I know the best places to go if I need to steal away for a moment of quiet and privacy. I know where most of the edges and corners are for the sake of my shins and the baby’s head. But really, if those things have told me anything its that there is a distinct difference between familiarity and peace. Just because this house, or any house, functionally fits me has very little to do with whether or not I feel settled in a place.
Admittedly I am a potato sack full of paradoxes. I like city-life with its noises and bustle, but I find great solace and peace in extraction from everything except God, books, and my own thoughts. I don’t get claustrophobia from apartment dwelling or narrow side-yards in sub-divisions. I don’t need 40 acres of “good bottom land” to bring me a sense of freedom. But I know that there are too many times when I don’t want anything save for a smidge of quiet and a long dirt road to walk and think and pray.
Frederick Buechner offers this description of “home”:
What the word home brings to mind before anything else, I believe is a place, and in its fullest sense not just the place where you happen to be living at the time, but a very special place with very special attributes that make it clearly distinguishable from all other places. The word home summons up a place – more specifically a house within that place – that you have rich and complex feelings about, a place where you feel, or did feel once, uniquely at home, which is to say a place where you feel you belong and that in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is somehow ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.
Buechner goes on later in this piece to make the point that there is a romanticized reality to “home”. And often it is when we go away and return we get the sense that we’ve, on some level, outgrown the place that we have such fond memories of. This outgrowing, he suggests, is merely the part of our soul that knows our true home isn’t built here, and hasn’t been built with human hands.
I do long for home, despite the fact that I’m sitting in my own kitchen. Some days the ache is so much that it creates an impatience in my heart and makes even normal social interactions a bit of struggle. At times I can’t think of anything I want on this earth when I compare all of these things to one solitary moment in the place that has been built for me uniquely by hands that know me on a level deeper than I know myself. And I am in good company, Paul told the Philippians that he didn’t know whether he wanted to leave the world, which would be better for him, or to stay, which would have been better for them.
I suppose it is evidence of the grace of God that I love my family so much, they don’t steal my affections for my eternal home, but my deep love for them offers me a glimpse of what it might be like to be in that place where I belong. And God does not, for my sanity’s sake, allow the deepest longings to go on indefinitely, only for a time. He mercifully doesn’t let me forget that this isn’t all. Home is still to come.
Hebrews 11 tells us the story of several people who searched and searched for a homeland and died not having yet seen it. But with a bit of a wink, the author lets us believe that as they all pursued this true idea of “home”, in the moment when they were translated from flesh to spirit, from temporal to eternal, from here and now to then and there…in that moment they found themselves in the living room of the home their hearts had yearned for. Jesus tells us that He has gone to prepare a place for us, surely that place that our Creator prepares is our home.