May 4th, 2007
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Fatherís house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
-John 14:1-3 (TNIV)
Iím not at home right now. Iím writing this from Malibu, California, on the campus of Pepperdine University. Right now Iím sitting at a table on a balcony, looking past Stauffer Chapel at the white-capped Pacific Ocean. Itís a beautiful, sunny day, about seventy degrees, with a nice breeze stirring the air and carrying the scent of flowers and salt. Iím with thousands of other believers, and weíve spent the last few days worshipping together, reflecting on Scripture together, encouraging each other, and enjoying each othersí company. Iíve been able to spend some time with my parents, and with good friends, and Iíve been able to make new friends. Itís been a wonderful few days, with amazing people, in a drop-dead gorgeous setting.
But Iím not at home.
I ask for no sympathy, and I know that after that first paragraph Iíll get none, but Iím really ready to go home. Never mind the beautiful setting. In spite of the inspiring worship and powerful preachers. Iím not at home, and Iím ready to be there, and for one really good reason. The people I most want to see are there. My wife. My son. My church. Try as I might, I canít see them in the Pacific Ocean. I canít catch even a glimpse of their faces among the thousands of people here. However uplifting the singing may be, I wonít look over and see my son or my wife standing there beside me. Pepperdine is nice. Itís beautiful. Iím glad Iím here and I intend to come back.
But Iím not at home.
A person can forget that heís not at home for a little while, maybe. If you stay busy enough, move fast enough, donít give yourself time to think about or miss those you love most, you could go for a while without being really homesick. You could drink in the beauty around you. You could enjoy the best of whatever the place youíre in has to offer. You could meet new people, make new friends. Oh, Malibu would be a beautiful place to live, donít get me wrong. Itís not that thereís anything wrong with this place.
Itís just that without the people I love most, it canít be home.
Donít ever forget that. You cannot be at home in the absence of whoever you love most. And that, of course, is the way it should be. However comfortable and lovely and good a place may be, if those you love most arenít there it wonít be home. Their faces will draw your heart somewhere else, and you wonít ever be quite content.
Human beings were meant to live with their Creator. Thatís the point of the early chapters of Genesis, isnít it; that people were made to live with God? But then our home was disrupted; Satan raised his head and opened his mouth, and evil and sin destroyed the home God had built to share with us. And people were left estranged from their God. Paradise was lost.
Weíre not at home.
Human beings too easily forget that, though. Some of us never knew it. Weíre busy building houses and careers and families. Busy pursuing our dreams and aspirations. We enjoy the beauty around us. Build friendships. Welcome children. We celebrate life and mourn death. We pursue pleasure and significance and joy, and we endure grief and pain and disappointment. And sometimes we have moments, some of us have a lot of moments, where we feel like weíve arrived. Weíre really home.
Deep down, though, we know weíre not.
Some of us have everything we ever wanted, and wonder why it doesnít seem like enough. Others have nothing they dreamed of, and wonder how itís fair that the ďhavesĒ have so much. We see our beautiful planet destroyed, beautiful people ravaged by the sins of others, or disease, or just the advance of age. Violence begets violence until everyoneís at war with everyone else and no one can be trusted. Relationships fail, and churches split, and people hurt us and we hurt them. And thatís when we know it. Thatís when the discontent and injustice, and evil, and violence and death tell us loud and clear: ďYou arenít home. You never were. You never will be.Ē
Josh called me while I wrote this. We didnít talk long. He told me a little about his day, and I told him about mine. We laughed together a little. He told me what he was going to do tonight, and I told him what I was going to do, and then we said ďI love youĒ and hung up. And his voice on the phone confirmed what his absence had already told me: Iím not at home, and however beautiful this place is and however much Iím enjoying it, I wonít be home until I see him again.
When weíre quiet we can hear our Fatherís voice, and it confirms what we already know. We arenít home yet. But he wants us to be. He spoke of it most loudly through Jesus. ďMy Fatherís house has plenty of room,Ē Jesus once promised, and after his death and resurrection his next mission was to return to that house and prepare your room. Funny, isnít it? It turns out that home has nothing to do with the American dream of having your own house. Turns out that a room in Godís house is all we need to be at home.
Jesus apparently has at least one more mission before salvation will be complete for his people. ďI will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,Ē he promises. That we may be where he is Ė yes, that will be home. I wonder if John had that promise in mind decades later when he wrote, ďDo not love the world, or anything of the world.Ē (1 John 2:15) He remembered that promise, and he knew that if we loved the world too much we might forget that weíre not at home. ďThe world and its desires pass away,Ē he reminds us. ďBut the person who does the will of God lives forever.Ē Jesus is coming back to take us home. How tragic that when he comes he might find us under the illusion that weíre already there.
Tomorrow, Iím going home. Well, to the place where the people I love most in the world are. Theyíll hug me and kiss me and be glad to see me. Iím going to pack tonight, and get to the airport in plenty of time. Iím looking forward to it even now. And the happiness of that reunion will be just a faint echo of the celebration to come when Jesus truly brings us home.
Donít forget to look forward to it. And donít forget to live like the dayís coming.
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