Monday, April 10, 2017

There’s Still No Place Like Home

When you hear the word “home,” what comes to mind? Like many words in the English language, home has a variety of meanings. And for each of us individually, it can bring different ideas to mind. But usually the mere sound of home brings a smile to our face.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says “home” can mean a place of residence; the social unit formed by a family living together; a familiar or usual setting; place of origin; an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs; and the objective of various games. Comedian George Carlin used to quip that one reason he loved baseball so much is because all the players wanted to “go home.”

When I think of the word, one image I have is Dorothy clutching her dog, Toto, in “The Wizard of Oz,” and mournfully telling her pet, “I want to go home.” Despite its many curiosities and fascinating characters, Oz definitely was not “home” for Dorothy.

The older I get, the more of a homebody I’ve become. I’ve always enjoyed travel – seeing new sights and meeting new people – but after a while, “home” starts beckoning and I can’t wait to get back there. No matter where we’ve gone, even to the beach, New York City or Disney World, the time comes when the thought of going home sounds so good.

"Home" isn't so much a physical place, but rather a
state of being.
Before attending my 50th high school reunion last year, my wife and I drove past the house on Poe Avenue that I called home throughout my childhood. Fond memories flooded back as I reflected on the comfort and security I felt there while growing up. But once I put the nostalgia aside, I realized that house and that street no longer meant home for me. My loved ones and my boyhood friends weren’t there anymore. Because home isn’t so much a physical location as it is a state of being.

Home is a recurring concept in the Bible as well. After 400 years of servitude in Egypt, the Israelites finally were free. Pyramids and mummies filled their rearview mirrors. However, after bumbling around in the wilderness due to their disobedience, many of them yearned for “home” in the land of the pharaohs, forgetting the severe hardships they had endured.

Then, after finally entering the Promised Land, establishing Jerusalem and the geographic nation of Israel, God’s chosen people apparently couldn’t stand prosperity. They returned to their headstrong, rebellious ways and consequently went back into captivity – this time in Babylon. Soon, recognizing their ingratitude for how God had blessed them, they began composing songs longing for home.

Before we pronounce judgment on the hapless Israelites, we must acknowledge how much we’re like them. For some reason, even if deep down we sense there’s really no place like home, we seem bent on looking beyond our familiar confines, always in search of the “greener grass.” Proverbs 27:8 addresses this tendency, noting, “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” Another passage warns, “Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man” (Proverbs 27:20). Wanderlust has a way of wrecking a happy home’s foundations.

There’s one other “home” the Bible directs us toward, one that far overshadows our other homes, no matter how many we’ve had. As the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Another apostle, Peter, addressed followers of Christ as “aliens and strangers” in this world (1 Peter 2:11), affirming that our eternal home awaits.

Today we hear much discussion about immigration and illegal aliens, and views on that are many. But as Paul reminded, we’re instructed to keep foremost in mind where our ultimate home – and citizenship – can be found: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone…. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). That, the Scriptures promise us, will truly be home sweet home.

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