Houghton 6 West, Moody Bible Institute; Westerville, Ohio; Edgewater Neighbourhood; Bridgeport Neighbourhood; (and soon) Jenkins Hall, Moody Theological Seminary; these are the places I have lived in and moved out of throughout the last year. I have one more move to go (to Jenkins) in a few weeks and to say I am sick of moving is an understatement. I went from living in one house for 11 straight years to packing up and moving 2-3 times a year – for the last five years – and moving is no joke! I used to think my mom was crazy when she said she did not ever want to move again after we moved into our house in little Bellville, Ohio (which they have lived in for 15+ years at this point) and now I get it- the constant instability, packing, living out of boxes and suitcases, and finally unpacking gets old quickly. With this constant moving has come a year of struggling with the theology of home.
~The Theology of Home~
This theology has become a paradox to me- so simple on one hand, and yet simultaneously frustrating and confusing on the other. As followers of Christ, we know that this world is not our home. We are sojourners in this land that God created. Our home is truly eternity spent in His presence, so this world cannot and should not fully feel like we belong. The Scriptures are where we come to know and understand this fact. Paul emphasised this to the church at Philippi, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20) and reminded the church at Corinth that their eyes needed to be fixed on the eternal, rather than what is of this world because we are not of this world, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). In Jesus, we have this hope-filled knowledge that one day the temporary pain and struggles of being human and sinful will be replaced with being made new in the presence of our God and Saviour. When summarising this truth, my music loving heart immediately rests in the words of Jon Guerra in his song “Bound for Glory.”
“this world is not my home,
I’m here but for a moment,
It’s all I’ve ever known,
this world is not my home”
It is a simple and powerful truth that holds a greater hope for eternity.
But then you come to the point that makes this seemingly simple theology paradoxical. This simple concept becomes frustrating and confusing for many (particularly in my experience) in that we have an inward longing for “home.” It seems as we continue in this life, our hearts are never fully satisfied with where we are and what we are being offered in this world. When I first started thinking on the theology of home I tried to define for myself what “home” means and struggled to do so. As cliche as it is, the place I naturally turned to find a definition is the Oxford Dictionary of English, which defines “home” as:
• The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
• The family or social unit occupying a permanent residence.
• A house or flat considered as a commercial property.
• The district or country where one was born or has settled on a long-term basis.
• A place where something flourishes, is most typically found, or from which it originates.
• Informal a place where an object is kept.
After looking in the dictionary, it became more clear to me why this theological concept has been so difficult to grasp. As with most twentysomethings who leave home to pursue higher education, my idea of “home” has been split. For the first year I lived in Chicago, my primary idea of “home” remained the old grey two-story in the middle of a field in Bellville, Ohio where my family is. Even now when people ask where I am going for Christmas break, I still say “home” when I mean where my family lives. But when asked where I am returning to at the end of the day, “home” means my apartment on Lowe Ave in Bridgeport, Chicago. Over the last five years I have also called my dorm at Moody “home”, a summer apartment “home”, my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Westerville, Ohio “home”, and my awful first apartment in Edgewater “home”. With all this moving, the only “home” that has remained consistent (in this Earth anyway) has been that second definition, “the family or social unit occupying a permanent residence,” and I am not there very often. It has almost felt like a crisis of identity because I do no fully fit in one particular place. I long to be with my family, but since entering into the Anglican church, the church I once regarded as a home feels so far it. I love this city and the ministry I am in, but struggle to fully love every aspect of teaching Jr. Kindergarten. As a result, the itchiness of discontent have filled the spaces of my heart, mind, and body.
Being uprooted constantly makes it hard for any one place to feel like “home”. After a long season of discontent and struggling to accept this truth in a heart-deep way, my definition has changed:
• the place where one feels loved, accepted, and seen; the place where one’s heart resides
It has been months of prayerful pondering and calling on the wisdom of close friends that have lead me to this definition. For nine long months, Chicago no longer felt like home and it has been difficult. I never thought I would fall out of love with this place and I have not fully (and I am finally in love and content again). It was a different kind of identity crisis as I mentioned previously. I have presently come to a place of peace, though I do not expect to remain there in Chicago, or anywhere God may lead me in the future. God has placed this hole of longing in my heart that can only be filled by Him when I one day enter into His presence. However, for now, His peace and His contentedness are filling my heart because I know I am where He wants me; at the church He has lead me to, and in the ministry He has called me to be in. I praise Him for being the home my heart can rest in. While this feeling may come and go, the truth behind it will remain steadfast. In Him, I am loved, accepted, and seen. In Him, I am home.