A Lifestyle of Leaving

What do you call …

  • Twenty-seven hundred square feet of aged pine?
  • A crumbling foundation buckling inward like an octogenarian’s knees?
  • Damp plaster expanses with varicose cracks revealing age?
  • Asphalt shingles curled by the relentless heat of the Kansas sun?

What do you get when you take an inert structure, fill it with a living family and add years? All those ingredients mingle and morph into something else … something ineffable … something called “Home.”

I just got back from a visit to my childhood home in Kansas. Even now the century-old abandoned structure feels strangely alive. It speaks to me, whispering memories … rummaging through my heart producing pictures of my parents in their vital years. The creaking stairs echo through the house like bits of conversation that I’m staining to recall. The bare polished wood of the newel post at the bottom of the stairs glows with the patina of raucous, laughing chases. The missing panel in the front hall door and that patched piece of plaster in the living room wall produce a visceral melancholy. These are poignant reminders that even in loving families can have real conflict. The pallet of memories and emotions elicited by the visit kaleidoscopes from luminous joy to murky despair, but all are indelible strokes on the canvas of my soul.

I walked slowly around my childhood home contemplating my reason for this trip. We are here to show the home to prospective buyers. It’s all part of the preparation for heading to Panama. But how could anyone else own what I call home? Can you sell an ornery but much loved uncle? Surely the selling severs the relationship! Does something irrevocably change … does some part of you cease to exist? I couldn’t believe the passions and pain stirred at the thought of relinquishing my hold on this old pile of tinder. I looked up at the weather-beaten window sashes desperately in need of a coat of paint and put that on the list of things to tend to. We jumped in the van and headed towards the nearest metropolitan area hoping that Home Depot would have some eye shadow brighten this old lady’s countenance. Sue was in the back seat where she could see her computer screen and get a little work done. I was in the front seat choking back tears and feeling foolish. Why all this angst over letting go?

Honesty reigned as the question hung in my heart. When I purchased the house from my parents, I had dreams of redemption. My heart hadn’t clearly revealed its motives to my head, but it had been plotting a rescue mission. Restoring the old Victorian would capitalize on all that had been good and salve over what had been bitter. Replacing the panel in that door would trump the fearful memory of the angry blows that splintered its wood. Sheetrock replacing damaged plaster would poultice wounded memories of a chair hurled in rage. Reclaiming the kitchen might refresh some of the wonderful laughing recollections … memories that tantalize and draw like the smells of my mother’s cooking. Perhaps if I could bring my family back into that restored mansion it would ease the feelings of isolation that still pursue me from my childhood.

All this time, I had been singing along with the radio, but the words of the songs had simply been falling from my brain and out of my mouth. Suddenly something cracked and the chorus of a song plunged into my consciousness …

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

I believe that “Home” is a God-implanted longing. We all want a place of security, warmth, safety and love. We long for shelter from life’s storm … real and figurative. We hunger for a place where friends are always welcome and from which foes are barred. This is what my attachment to an old house reveals … I was created for HOME. What I wanted to recapture … no, what I hoped to create … is not truly attainable in this world for the follower of Christ. We do not belong to this planet.

My parents cataloged their memories according to the addresses where they had lived. It was such a part of conversation that I remember the locations of many places where I never lived … 1802 Boadway … 1306 Fry … The Farm … 430 Harrison. There’s no doubt that we are deeply impacted by the places where we lived, but they do not define us. As a Christ-followers, we cannot be bound by where we’re from … our lives must be defined by our destination. We must live for our home with a capital H!

In Hebrews Chapter 11 we have a list of people who lived for HOME. This chapter, often called “The Hall of Faith,” culminates with these awesome words …

 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (VV 13-16)

I love how God uses the words of songs and his Holy Word to clear our muddled thinking. God has called Sue and me into a new area of his Kingdom work. That means leaving home … to press toward HOME! I came back from Kansas singing a new tune …

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take the house but give me Jesus
This is not where I belong!

 

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