"How lovely is Thy dwelling place,
O Lord almighty!
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house,
They are ever praising You." -- Psalm 84:1, 4
On the way home in the taxi from dinner at our Kiwi friends' house last night, it didn't take but five minutes to find common ground with our Afghani driver. He and I agreed: Once you've grown up some place, and when your family and friends are there, it will always be home. But once you've spent a certain amount of time in another place, that place can start to feel like home. Then when you're in one place, you miss the other. It's awfully confusing.
What I didn't have the words to tell him was that, as far as I can tell, that conundrum is the life of a Christian. To be a believer in Christ is to forever be homeless on this earth. And at the same time, it is to long for our eternal home, and to find it in a Person.
I've been thinking a lot about the idea of home over the past few months. Last summer, in between the time we moved out of our home in Austin and the day we moved in to our present abode, our family stayed in five different homes and two hotels. Some of our hosts were family members, some friends, but all were kind, hospitable, welcoming -- and probably forbearing. They did their very best to make us feel at home (and we did our level best to be good guests).
Yet as gracious as each host was, the fact remained that we never were truly at home. Each kitchen had its own unique arrangement, and just around the time I was finally getting used to where the colander or kitchen shears were kept, it was time to move on. And for sure, I didn't feel the liberty to open any closet door or rifle through drawers. I couldn't rearrange pictures on the wall, or replace the throw pillows, or paint the laundry room coral (I did that last bit in our last house, and it made me very happy indeed). Can we agree that "Make yourself at home?" doesn't extend quite that far?
And then we moved in here. Here, to our cozy little townhouse, half the size we used to inhabit -- which, we all agree, makes the cleaning and upkeep a relative cinch. I'm oh-so-grateful to have a roof over our heads, especially on these chilly nights. And it's awfully nice to stow the suitcases under the beds for a while and choose our clothes from racks and drawers instead. I have a table that can even seat a guest or two, even though our dining space is so narrow that half the diners are trapped once they sit down.
But it's still not fully our home. We rent this place, you see. Painting the walls is out of the question -- even hanging anything on them is extremely iffy. And because our things are in storage in the States, and we're only here for a year, it doesn't feel worth it to invest in decorative accessories or furniture we love. Instead, we make pies in square pans and sit on couches we found on eBay because bottoms just needed places to land. Next summer, those couches will find their way to someone else's living room.
(Here is is, warts and all! Because you're my friends. :-))
Sure, that stuff is just … well, STUFF … but don't we normally choose to feather our nests with the things that reflect who we are? Our homes are our expression. But ours isn't, so we have a tangible daily reminder that this is just a temporary tent. We're strangers and sojourners here, and our true home is elsewhere. And I don't mean Texas, either. Sorry, y'all.
But here's the other thing: my God also wants a home. Paul writes to the Ephesian believers about Christ "making His home in your hearts through faith." Sure, Christ lives in me, but friends, I feel like too often, He's just a guest. A loved, welcomed guest, yes, but not the homeowner of my heart. Do I give Him the full freedom to paint or adorn the walls? To choose and rearrange the furniture? To leave traces of His presence lying around? To -- oh dear -- discard what's old and outgrown? Let's be honest: Not nearly enough. For the most part, I'm still in charge here. If not the host, at least the landlord. With an extensive rental agreement.
Maybe that's part of what this whole experience is about. Shedding some clutter, letting go of some things my American culture tells me are guaranteed necessities, and handing over the keys to my heart's rightful Owner.