If I could give you a visual of the last few weeks, it would be me standing on one leg.
The process of moving from one community to another - from one ministry role to another - from one house to another, is inherently imbalanced. You have more familiarity with what is past than what is present, more proficiency with what you did than with what you do, and more credibility with who you served rather than who you serve. This is the way of things, as well it should be.
So, what do we do? We do what our long-dead generations past did - we create a home. Not a house, though you could make a case that felling timber and building from scratch was a tremendous statement about one’s home, today instead we make a place of familiarity. A place of comfort. A place where we can be naked - both literally and metaphorically - and have no real consequences come of it.
But then again, home isn’t just a place - home is a person or persons who tie into that feeling of comfort and familiarity. Home is often a shared nest, a location where we are accompanied and rescued and supported by another.
In the words of one of my favorite song-slingers, Ellis Paul, “This house is just an address / You’re my home.”
My wife has carved out a beautiful space for us to live - in all honesty, she is the reason we survived our move. Her detail eye, her time of following up with lawyers and realtors and “Bill Radon” (long story) made it possible for us to go from one community to another with as little stomach distress as possible.
She is my home - my family is home - we give each other light, life and breath. Which leads to another truth:
The opposite of home is not homelessness, but exile.
Exile is being cast into a land without familiarity, without comfort, without partnership.
Homelessness can be exile, certainly, but exile extends well beyond dwellings and studs and drywall.
Exile is not a loss of land or shelter, exile is a loss of identity. When Israel released and abandoned their identity as God’s people to be more like those nations around them, the result was military occupation and eventually exile into Babylon. They were taken from home, sent to a land that was hostile and unfamiliar, and their longing for the known and familiar exploded.
They were meant for home, not exile.
We were meant to be home.
God designed us to dwell, to stay, to remain in something or someone and by doing that we figure out the whole reason for our waking-walking on the planet.
God’s story begins with home in a garden, then moves to home in the wilderness, then on to home in a city and one day a new version of each will replace the creaking floorboards of home as we know it.
We were built for home.
The reality that I have been reminded of in these off-balance weeks is this: While we wander, searching and waiting for home, we become desperate for survival and detached from our moorings.
We engage in stress eating and other compulsive behaviors.
We forget - or are moved out of - rituals and routines that give us life.
We find ourselves making excuses based on the transition that we’re in.
All of these things are a veiled attempt at staving off exile - we feel we’re losing our identity and we long to find our way home.
Jesus teaches, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…” (John 15:5)
This isn’t about substitutionary atonement.
This isn’t about praying the sinner’s prayer.
It isn’t about having a quiet time, really, or any other religious exercise.
This teaching is all about home. It’s all about identity. It’s all about life without exile. Finding our identity, our moorings, and our sustenance in this home. Yes, it is portable and it may follow us - just a hypothetical here - from southwest Chicago to northwestern Illinois.
The journey of following Jesus is always home, welcoming exiles to find out who they really are. Together. Supported. Loved. Cherished. Even when they’re naked, afraid, and wounded.
So where are you living?