Seems so long ago. Our nightly family dinners, circled around a table of prayer. The blue rocking chair where my Mom would rock me when I was little. Saturday nights spent with Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett, laughing with my Dad. The neighbor’s air conditioner humming along with the crickets while I turned my pillow on hot nights. My own house key once my Mom finished her college degree and started teaching. And the piano keys that filled so many empty hours. The hundreds of nights when I lay in my bed and called out “goodnight” to my Mom down the hall – I couldn’t sleep until she faithfully answered. So long ago since life was so care-free. And home was a safe haven.
The belief that I lived in the best country in the world. Taking my American liberty, my homeland of peace, all too much for granted. The best 4th of July fireworks in the county. The church services, the impromptu softball games, the tall time-worn library bookshelves that opened up worlds. Road trips sharing a back seat with my sister and listening to the radio. The vacations at the Great Smoky Mountains and Myrtle Beach, the starry nights, the scary hairpin turns, the pound of the breakers. Feet lingering, leaving short-lived prints in wet sand as I watched the peach and purple sunset. The lack of fear when I walked to the neighborhood market or biked barefoot with my friends on sunny days. Home was sea to shining sea, the place of plenty.
Later, reading aloud to my daughters piled on the bed, laughing, we gave voice to characters chained to silent pages. Devotions in the morning. Christmases piled high with intangible gifts. Homeschool and literature and science experiments. Crunching through falling leaves under honor guard archways of trees. Friends and sleepovers. Singing and music. Mistakes. Imperfection. Prayer. On nights when one of us was away, there was a hole. But love saved the place. And when we moved for jobs several times, the thing that rescued me from lostness was family. Home was always the people I loved – a rich abundance.
But this week. This week, my country is on fire. And I’m not sure why I’m still obediently wearing my COVID mask and social distancing while chaos dances closer. A beautiful array of skin-color lives are stolen, while heart-colors surface. Statues crafted to honor and reflect – like humans created in God’s own image – are defaced and toppled. Cities are destroyed, their protectors rejected. Hard-won freedom is now trampled as trash. This week, I drive through a protest while policemen shield the very ones who hate them from the busy intersection traffic. This week, it doesn’t feel safe to leave my daughter as I travel to help my parents. And this week, I try not to hear the TV news from the next room as I pray for God to spare my parents from suffering. This week, I sit in the old blue rocking chair alone, watching over my frail Mom and wishing for the days when she could remember and understand. And I hug her and I whisper, “Goodnight, Mom!” … And home. Well, home is something that I grieve over this week.
But I lay down and turn my hot pillow on this June night, and when I tell Him I’m scared, He just right away says, “You have this treasure.” And I know what He means. For some crazy reason, God loves me so much that He has made His home in me. He isn’t far away and I never have to wait for Him. He lives here. Emmanuel. God’s Spirit, His very essence, with me. Even surrounded by a dark world, our house is a sun-house, with light streaming through clear windows, colorful, joyous, hope-filled. If I heard someone else describe it, I think I’d be skeptical. And yet, it’s the most real thing I know. I understand more now when Dallas Willard talks about how we have already begun our eternity right here. I understand about remaining in Him.
And it’s not that I’m perfect … trust me when I say I’m far from that and always will be.
It’s that, all along, my weakness was made to fit His strength.
King David must have understood:
“Here’s the one thing I crave from God, the one thing I seek above all else: I want the privilege of living with Him every moment in His house, finding the sweet loveliness of His face, filled with awe, delighting in His glory and grace. I want to live my life so close to Him that He takes pleasure in my every prayer. In His shelter in the day of trouble, that’s where you’ll find me, for He hides me there in His holiness. He has smuggled me into His secret place where I’m kept safe and secure – out of reach from all my enemies. Triumphant now, I’ll bring Him my offerings of praise, singing and shouting with ecstatic joy!” (Psalm 27)
And I want you to know – this is what God is to me:
A faithful response on lonely, scary nights. A circle-table of close communion. Family. The pound of breakers sweeping me off my feet. A voice for the chained. A shield from harm. Time-worn wooden shelves filled with truth. Honor guard trees for losses. Sun shafts as I walk through a dark place. A rocking chair haven. Courage given just in the hour I need it. A land of plenty. Beauty. The One I love.
I see that He’s been writing His Home in my heart all of my life and I didn’t know it.
Saving the place for me.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. If you make yourself at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. In this godless world, you’ll continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”– Jesus (John 15-16)
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed … struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body … So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”– Paul (II Corinthians 4)
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
And he was home.