June 5, 2001
“Even the sparrow finds a home there,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young --
at a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God!
How happy are those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.” (Psalm 84:3-4)
My dad and mom are moving.
They signed the papers on the new house yesterday. It’s official. Oh, it’s going to take a little while. They’re having a new house built, and they haven’t even broken ground yet. It’ll take several months yet, but they’re moving. It’s just a matter of time.
Over the next months, that new house will start to take shape. Right now, it’s just a blueprint. They can drive by the lot and envision it, but it’s not yet reality. But in a few weeks, there’ll be a foundation. Then the skeleton of the house will start to rise. Before they know it, someone will be handing them a set of keys and they’ll be ready to move in. Just a matter of time.
And in that time, guess what they have to do. They have to sell the house they live in now -- the house they’ve lived in since 1974. They have to say good-bye to the house that their children grew up in. They have to say good-bye to the house and the neighborhood that’s been their home for 27 years.
But not just them. Me too. I was five when we moved in to that house. I hardly remember where we lived before that. I was twenty when I finally left for good. (You could make an argument that I was 22, but anyway...) I enjoyed family dinners in that kitchen. Christmas mornings with my parents, my sister, and my grandmother in the den. My friends and I beat down every decent blade of grass my father ever tried to grow in the yard. My tennis shoes probably tromped across every square inch of that neighborhood. I still think of the room on the left at the end of the hall as “my room,” even though it hasn’t been “mine” since President Bush’s father was in office. I still refer to houses on the block by the names of people long gone.
Even though I’ve lived somewhere else for twelve years, even though I have my own family and my own home now, in some special way that house is still “home”.
Only it’s not.
I think it was Thomas Wolfe who said, “You can’t go home again.” He was right, you know. You can’t go home because home, like everything else in the world, changes. Home isn’t just a place. It’s a time, too. It’s memory. To which home would I return? Home when I was seven? Or home when I was seventeen? To riding my bike through the neighborhood or pulling my car out of the driveway? To a room full of Star Wars toys or Van Halen records? Home is just another part of a world that never stays the same for very long.
Too bad more of us don’t learn that secret. We get so attached to places, times, things, and people. We get so attached, in fact, that cutting those attachments can send us into a spin. We start to think that those people, places, times, and things to which we have become so attached define who we are. To have any of them taken away or altered is a threat to our security, peace, and happiness.
But down through the years, a few have learned the secret of home. “How lovely is your dwelling place,” wrote the psalmist. (Psalm 84:1) “How happy are those who can live in your house...I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” David resolved, “I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23: 6) Abraham left his home at God’s beckon call, “without knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) Only one reason for a person to do a thing like that: “he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
May the Lord remind us that home isn’t about where we live or who lives there with us. To be at home, ultimately, is to be with God. To set our eyes on “a better place, a heavenly homeland.” (Hebrews 11:16) Even the happiest of earthly homes will change. Houses get sold. People move, and eventually die. In spite of our illusions of safety and security, none of us are anything more than “foreigners and nomads here on earth.” Only God can give us the security, certainty, peace, and love that our earthly homes only hint at. That’s why “home” for you needs to be where he his, his house.
“There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you,” said Jesus. (John 14:2) “When everything is ready, I will come and get you...” And that’s exactly what he did. He went to the cross to make sure that there is room in God’s house for anyone who wants it. Anyone who has a little faith in him can be sure of her own room there. Oh, you might not see it yet. Maybe it isn’t yet time for you to move in permanently. But you can see its shape, can’t you? Can’t you, in the words of Scripture, in the love of the church at her best, in times of worship or prayer, can’t you see the outline of the place you’re going to spend forever? It’s already yours, if you’ll take it. Have you?
Of course, it’s going to require that you do what my mom is doing at the house she‘s about to leave. She’s cleaning out the junk. Giving away some things. Perhaps throwing away others. That’s what you do, see, when you know you won’t be living somewhere much longer. You start to streamline, to cut attachments.
Are there some attachments to this old, decaying home you need to cut? Is there some junk you need to clean out of the attic of your life? Now’s the time to do it, while your heavenly home is still taking shape. Before Jesus comes to take you home, only to discover that you thought you were already there.
Yes, it takes trust. It takes courage. It takes, as you might expect, faith. It’s tough to live like a stranger in a world that seems so comfortable sometimes. But you don’t belong here. This isn’t home. Home is just over the horizon, lit up with the love of God.
Home sweet home.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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