To paraphrase Augustine, our hearts are restless until they find their home in God.
My parents moved 13 times in their first 13 years of marriage. The last three moves came during my fifth grade year. We moved to a new town and proceeded to move into three different homes in less than a year—a rental that sold weeks after we moved in, a house we leased for six months and then the house my parents bought.
After that, my parents stayed put, and I spent my middle school and high school years in the same house. And while that was definitely home, I still felt unsettled in a town which proclaimed itself “The Cowboy Capital of Oregon” and where cowboy boots, F-series pickups and a rabid love of high school athletics were the norm.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I felt at home, both in the place I lived and in my own skin. That was God’s gracious gift to me as that was also the season when my parents’ marriage fell apart. By the time I graduated college, my parents were divorced and our home had been sold. My definitions of home and family had been turned upside down. Rather than redefining those terms, I simply began my own vagabond period of life. Over the next five years, I never lived anywhere longer than nine months and had several stints that were three months or less.
There were reasons for this. One was being young and wanting to pursue dreams: working at a Christian camp, touring with a music group, teaching overseas. But another was purposefully displacing myself so I didn’t have to choose which parent to be with for the holidays. When you are living in China, there is no discussion about who you’ll spend Thanksgiving with.
When I moved to Fort Collins, I thought I’d only be here two years to complete my master’s program before I moved elsewhere to get my PhD. Little did I know that God had brought me home.
I got involved at church, made friends, learned my way around town. All things I’d done before. But in this place, with these people, I felt a deep longing to put down roots and call this place home.
The longing didn’t go away, even as I worked on my thesis and filled out doctorate applications. And then God surprised me with a guy who wanted to give me his name and his home. And I said yes, albeit with some fear and trembling.
When you’ve gone without home and roots for so long, the thought of having them again is both tantalizing and anxiety-ridden. Is this for real? Can I trust what God is doing here?
Flash forward to 2017. My husband, Mark, and I celebrated our 15th anniversary this May. This July we will have lived in the same house for 14 years. I brought both of my children home from the hospital to this house. We’ve gone to the same church the entire time we’ve lived here. The town is ever-expanding but I know my way around, have my favorite spots, and the rhythm of life here is routine.
As I sit in my house, I look around and feel...at home. When we bought the house it had pink and blue countertops and hideous wallpaper in almost every room. The wallpaper is gone, the countertops have been replaced, and this house is uniquely ours from paint colors to the art on the walls.
I’m home. For a former vagabond, who scores rock bottom on every personality test involving change, that is such a gift.
I am grateful to be in a place and season of my life where I feel profoundly at home. I know it may not always be so. There could be job changes ahead, a time when we have a parent living with us whom we are caring for, a church plant, health issues. There will be seasons of change and readjustment, and home will look different than it does now.
So, for this moment, I rejoice in my home. And I understand that even as I rejoice in this refuge, my heart still is not fully at rest. The moments I feel most profoundly at home, when my heart spills over with gratitude, are also the moments when I am reminded that there is a home beyond this one.
The fact that I love my home and yet have days when I am profoundly weary and unsettled are proof that even this home does not fully satisfy. I rejoice in it while knowing I am made for something different, something more. As C.S. Lewis wrote: “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.” This home and the peace it brings are only a foretaste of the home and peace to come.
In heaven we will be welcomed home by our Father. Not for a moment or a season but for all of eternity. John 14:1-2 tells both of our homecoming and our hearts as we await it:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
I rejoice in knowing my vagabond status won’t last forever. One day the Lord will open his Book of Life, find my name and change my status from vagabond to resident. I will be home like never before, abiding with my Father, dwelling in the place I was made for. Perfectly at home.
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