Long-term memory isn’t my strongest suit. But the memory I had walking into my grandmother’s empty house for the last time is still with me. She was in a car accident a few days earlier that claimed her life. She and some other ladies just had their girls’ lunch at the usual mom-and-pop restaurant when it happened. It wasn’t more than a few miles from home. One of the waitresses at the restaurant heard the collision and ran out to try to help. She held Mama in her arms and talked to her as they waited for the ambulance to arrive. The waitress told the family that Mama kept saying over and over again, “Tell my son, I love him.” My grandparents adopted my dad when he was young. He was their only son.
A few steps into my grandmother’s house placed me in a trance. The house was being sold, and most of the items had been auctioned off. The space was bare and yet full at the same time. I could see the layout of the furniture in the rooms that basically never changed, but they were all just transparent placeholders in my mind. I recalled scenes at the dinner table of playing cards with Papa and being asked about school by grandmother. She would say, “You be good, now”, as I finished up my cereal. I was overly loved with the way grandparents care.
But now something wasn’t right. Something was leaving and fading from around and within me. It was the closest I had ever been to experiencing a ghost, and I wondered how dad was handling it. I had known this place for 20-some years; he, at least double that. And now his dad (who passed away a few years prior), his mom and this home were essentially gone.
My wife, Naomi, had a similar experience during childhood. Her family lived in a trailer on the side of a mountain while her dad was building their house. With three other siblings and limited square footage, Naomi didn’t have a place of her own inside the tin box. However, she did find a home outside in the surrounding forest with its trees, streams and wildlife. It was in that place that she was formed. It was there that she was taught about many of God’s attributes.
As a little girl, it was traumatic for her when the area was logged. Her place of life and adventure and peace was massacred. Naomi came to know sorrow as she walked through the remaining wood and its corpses.
Through the agents of time, death and injustice we all have and will experience the loss of home. So much so that the concept of home seems more like a myth or a fantasy. We dream of security in a place where we can always return—visions of joy in a people who always welcome us. But instead we wake to find utopias destroyed and made into ghost towns, havens that are filled with abuse, societies that are broken with greed, murder and self-righteousness. We are all orphaned, widowed, homeless and incomplete to some degree.
Our physical needs tell of our spiritual needs and vice versa. Together they hint that there is hope to be found. In Jesus, God fully dwelled in bodily form. The physical and the spiritual collided, in Christ, and embodied each other. The hope to be found in this is that there is an adoption happening that takes us from our dysfunctional homes. Jesus tells us that He is both preparing an everlasting place for us and abiding in us, creating His home in us, now.
When God dwelled physically on earth He announced in word and deed that His kingdom was coming. At a lecture I once heard Dallas Willard (an author, philosophy professor and speaker) talk about the genius of Christ. He said, “[Jesus] understood that the basic problem for human beings is to find a spiritual home in which they can know that they are cared for, eternally cared for, and then from which they can care for others and not spend their whole life just fighting over what to do.” The wonderful thing about the kingdom of God is that it is not centered on us and yet all our needs are met. We are all looking for home and having our desires met gives us the freedom to love and serve others.
Recently, I read a report from the Barna Research Group that was very telling of my self and my generation. The report said that “Busters” (those born between 1965 and 1983) are most likely to be stressed out and too busy compared with other generations. Busters are also the ones most looking for purpose in life. My schedule and my discontentment fight each other for first place. I need not only rest—but meaning as well.
Home is the treasure we are looking for and the answer to our boredom. Home is the cure for both our anxiety and apathy. Those who know Jesus can wait confidently in anticipation of the fullness of our adoption to come. Until then, we can enter, by faith, into His presence at anytime.
“God Himself—His thoughts, His will, His love, His judgments are men’s home,” George MacDonald preached. “To think His thoughts, to choose His will, to judge His judgments, and thus to know that He is in us, with us, is to be at home.”