One thing I find so interesting is the deep desire we humans have for the static. I confess not to understand it but I can see all around me the evidence of this dream. People want to get to a place, be there, nest there, relax there, be with loved ones there, and settle down there, forever. This yearning for place seems to animate most people. I do understand the effect of landscape, I do see how the contours and texture of a place can change our understanding of self and others. But as for a permanent, everlasting, destination, this mystifies me.
I lived in a house for a very long time. My parents moved into the house when I was one year old. I moved out for a spell in graduate school but four years later I was renting one of the apartments attached to the large structure. I lived there another two years. All in all I lived in that house for 23 years. And I do not miss it, never think of it, never drive or walk by it, even though it is minutes from where I work. When we moved into the home where I now live my wife Kim came from Toronto, met with the realtor, visited over 15 potential houses, and purchased this one. The first time I set eyes on it was the moment our car rolled up into the driveway, with the moving van behind us.
People spend a lot of time designing, choosing, landscaping, and decorating their home. Front lawns are a thing of the past now, no one expects visitors to drop in unexpected, rather it is the backyard, for friends and family, where we entertain. Our space now is self-contained, it is ours, and we hope to remain as long as possible. When people get older and frail they move to an apartment or condo, later to assisted living residences. These transitions are often difficult, painful, and traumatic. I believe this result comes directly from this desire to make a home and remain there forever.
Heaven is another way we offer ourselves a narrative of home. John 14 references a house or mansion or dwelling place but the author wasn’t thinking of a permanent residence as much as space for everyone, spacious room for all kinds of relationships, just like the ones in the early church, the Book of Acts describes these places so well. These new believers, who formed their lives around Jesus, were Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, men and women, widows and large families, refugees and people who had never traveled anywhere. Together they were households of believers, sisters and brothers, and John 14 makes clear this arrangement is as God intended. Our relationship to God, to each other, is deep and it lasts in abundant space.
I am attracted to that notion of a journey animated by connections rather than a specific place. Home for me is less specific people and specific geography and specific physical structures and more a connection, a passion to be part of something larger than me, and a willingness, an enthusiasm, to learn and grow with the other.
I worry that the static is unsustainable. I recognize it brings others great joy, who am I to quibble with this rich enjoyment others find in place. But as we age I worry the value we place on the static obscures what is/was truly important and lasting about our lives. The place, the stuff, even the specific people we recognize, they are part of our story, but they are not all of it. When we die and others come to celebrate our lives what is remembered is not just the place and the specific people we knew and loved most, it is how we became part of something and how that something never ends, keeps breaking into our world, keeps making us new and more whole. That is not a static experience, it is an evolving, ever-changing and transforming Spirit. And I am grateful to see it in others and for them to see it in me.