I've long been fascinated with G.K. Chesterton's observation: "Some men are homesick in their own homes" - because I feel it deep in my soul! I read the last chapter of C.S. Lewis' The Chronciles of Narnia and tear up, because I too have spent my whole life looking for "my true country". Rachel Jones explores that feeling in chapter 3...
We hear a lot today about how difficult it is to "get onto the housing ladder" and the incredible expense of saving up to afford a deposit on your "first home". The millennial generation are half as likely to be home owners by age 30 than their parent's generation. Renting is the new buying.
Rachel comments on two related experiences that are familiar to many of us:
“To be honest, it’s not a house I long for; it’s home – which is why I still get homesick… My problem is that often when I go home, I find it’s not quite what I was missing after all."
"I suspect that wherever we’re living – even if we’re homeowners – we share a sense that life will get good once we’re Somewhere Else”
I love how she connects this deep experience of our hearts with the good news of the gospel. In Luke 9:57-58 we are told: As the disciples were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “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.” She comments:
“Jesus lived a life of radical rootlessness… He’s not just renting – he’s sofa surfing. Jesus wasn’t having an existential crisis, or even a financial one. His radical rootlessness was all part of his mission to proclaim the kingdom of God – the good news that anyone can enjoy life with Him, now and eternally, by repenting of their sin and believing in Him. Subjects of this kingdom become ‘foreigners and exiles’ in this world, as they follow their King down his road of radical rootlessness. The King’s road is a road with a destination: home. Jesus describes heaven as His ‘Father’s house [with] many rooms’ …. This home is safe and permanent – there’ll be no rogue landlord or dodgy neighbours. It’s where our family is – a multitude of perfected brothers and sisters to celebrate with. Best of all, waiting eagerly at the door to welcome us in is Jesus Himself. He’s the One who left his home in heaven, lived the life of a roaming preacher and died the death of a social outcast to bring us home. Now he’s standing at heaven’s door, ready to embrace us and say: ‘WELCOME HOME’. It’s not wrong to long for home – this rootless feeling can be genuinely painful. But when we feel that way, it’s an opportunity to set our hearts not on a 40 year mortgage but on the home with Jesus that we were made for. If we feel as if we’re floating through life with little to tether us down, we can rejoice that the swirl of the currents will eventually wash us up on eternity’s shore. Home, at last…. Home is not here, it is ahead of us… and for which the asking price has already been paid in full”
Knowing about the homeward bound destination of our lives also changes how we tackle the sense of homelessness along the journey:
“Just as heaven is described as God’s house in the Bible, the church is described as God’s household – an extension of that family gathering in eternity: ‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household’ (Ephesians 2:19)…. Home is where God’s people are. That means that the right thing to do – and not only that, the most fulfilling thing to do – will be to invest here, rather than always wishing I was somewhere else… So put down some roots in church. You’ll find your life is much healthier for it”
She finishes by addressing the objection: What if church doesn’t feel like home? She gives this tried and tested advice, drawn from Romans 12:
“Don’t pull back: dig in. It’s as we do church that we feel church… GO…. SERVE… WAIT…. PRAY… SHARE… Real relationships take time…. They grow as we rejoice together over life’s victories, as we cling together to the gospel when there’s little else to find hope in, and as we mourn together in the face of suffering and loss.”