When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”…But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.Gen. 19:16-17, 26
Yesterday we learned that our options for transferring to a different public school may take us back into Buckhead to a school near where my dad grew up and went to high school. What? No sense as far as I can tell. How does that fit into what we thought we were called to do here in Grove Park? What purpose is there in our having left their old schools to potentially go to this particular one? It all seems so random to me and untidy, inconsistent and confusing. What is our place into which to settle? What is the community into which we are to pour our energies and time? How can we once again find ourselves all over town, everywhere and nowhere? This does not seem to focus our family but to disperse it once again. I want boundaries, definitions, simplicity and to be settled under one clear banner. Like Lot’s wife, I’m looking from left to right, up, down and backward to try and get my own bearings and sense of certainty. I just want a sense of “home”.
We read a story this morning about a family whose home was on a ship, and in a few short pages experienced their collection of celebrations, terrifying moments, heartbreaks and daily warm and happy memories. When the story ended with their time to move off the boat, we shared their sadness. When so much life has been lived in one place, the loss of that place feels like a loss of all the life lived there and there is a finality to it. These are the stories that make me cry whether in television shows or movies, novels or poetry…and of course, real life.
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Gen. 3:22-24
Whether it is the end of high school, the end of a favorite television series, the end of a great book, the end of a marriage, the end of childhood, the end of a life, the end of camp, the end of days residing in a particular town, the end of a hard fought endeavor, the end of a career…endings carry with them a heartbreak that is not easily reconciled to the demand to “move on” or simply “get over it”. Even those gut wrenching experiences that finally come to a much desired conclusion leave their marks so that with the end there is still grieving to be done over the losses incurred along the way. And, even as I long for “home”, I am beginning to believe that this constant sense of “unsettled” is how it should be, for this time. This chest piercing pain of leaving “homes” of all sorts, is intentionally reminiscent of that first loss (in the Garden) of place, of home and of security in knowing that “all is well with the world”. These current losses, however, are in fact tamer because even in them there was never perfection, but at best little hints at it.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. John 14:1-4
I get flustered and blustered about feeling unsettled, trying to get settled, wanting a framework and definition into which my present moment can fit securely. Instead of solid bearings, I am constantly more like a mug of coffee that doesn’t quite fit in a car’s cupholder and is always on the brink of splashing its contents all over the seats, floors and passengers. I have never taken seriously the fact, which Scripture declares, that this world is not my home. Its the only home I’ve ever known and I have had moments of feeling quite settled and rooted here. Perhaps just like Adam and Eve, I don’t really understand that the end goal isn’t to get back to something I may once have sampled. Instead, those samples were always intended to be more like the intensely delicious smells coming out of a bakery or a place like Kilwins…they were always the aroma of better things, drawing us into His place but never able to satisfy in themselves.
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matt. 8:19-20
I want to follow Jesus, but I want to do it from a well defined home base, a cozy nest, a warm den. Jesus knew the place that awaited Him at the end of His labors, the rest promised to Adam but delayed until that work was completed by the second Adam. Jesus had confidence in the beauty and satisfaction of His real home so that He didn’t need Anytown U.S.A. to provide that for Him now. There was restoration to be completed, the Law to satisfy and the power of the serpent to break once and for all. The God Man knew His purpose even as I am blind to mine. Because I don’t have my heart set on the place He is preparing, the new heaven and new earth, I am too easily persuaded to settle for a halfway house here.
What if the teacher of the Law and I both really believed where this story was headed? What kind of fox den or bird’s nest or small town or Boston bar like Cheers would be more satisfying than the place to which all other good, warm and welcoming places point? Might I then begin to follow wherever He leads less grudgingly, with less resistance and lighter steps and greater delight? If He is fully committed to One Home only, and bringing all things under One Head to be fully restored and even regenerated there, might I begin to be satisfied by and committed only to that Home to come too?
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Rev. 21:1-5