Longing For Home
Home, at the very least, is a place. But more than just the place you currently live, it’s the place where you belong and in some sense belongs to you, where you feel permission to be yourself, where you feel accepted, known, and safe. Home is the place where you feel free to watch a whole season of Stranger Things without judgement! I believe that even if you have never had a place like that, we all still have a longing for home. With 3.2 million foreign migrants in London, I wonder if you ever feel this longing?
My wife and I spent eight months of 2017 living as guests with other people. With just two bags between us, we spent months with family in our hometown, and months with gracious friends in London. During that time I thought a lot about this idea of home. Which country is my home now? Will I ever get back that childhood home? Can I ever create that perfect place of comfort? This longing isn't just part of transient London life. I believe it points to a deeper longing in the heart that only God can satisfy.
During Christmas, Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus, who died on the cross for the sins of the world so that all who trust in him could have an eternal home with him. But it is more than that, Jesus was God who became man. Christians call him “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”. The incarnation itself is worth celebrating because in it God makes his home amongst us. Eugene Peterson paraphrases John 1:14 in the Message Bible like this, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” This is such an amazing thing! This means that even when I am feeling unsettled, I can find my home in God. The acceptance, comfort, and security that I long for is met right now by faith in Jesus.
Later in Jesus’s life, the night before he is crucified, he tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them. Frederick Beuchner calls it “a house that is older than Eden and dearer than home.” When the disciples ask, “How do we get there?” (the disciples, too, are longing for home), Jesus replies, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7 NIV). Our ultimate home, where all our longings will be satisfied, is with God. We can be confident that if we know Jesus and believe in him, then we will one day have a perfect home with God forever.
Now does this mean that our physical homes are unimportant? Of course not! This means that our physical homes take on a new dimension. They can be glimpses of what heaven is like. They can become places in which we make others feel welcomed, accepted, and safe - literally ‘feel at home’. Wonderfully they can be places where we share the gospel and show people the way home to Jesus.
And at the same time, Jesus reminds me that my physical home will never completely satisfy all my longings. It is not my ultimate home. When my home is not living up to my expectations, or I’m feeling unsettled in London, I ask God to satisfy those longings in my heart, and I take comfort in the hope of the perfect home with God that I’ve been promised.