My 7-year-old daughter has lived at least six places in her short life. So recently when she listed “mom’s arms” as her safe place, it was a moment I’ll always treasure in my heart—but it didn’t surprise me. My daughter could be classified as a third-culture kid (TCK). When someone asks her where she’s from, the answer is complicated. She’s Orlando-born, lived a majority of her life overseas, and now she’s back in Orlando again.
For two of the homes we lived in the longest as a family, we had to leave quite suddenly and against our choice. So I’m glad that, to my kids, home is less about belongings or a place, more about presence. Namely, their parents’.
Whether you live in the house you grew up in or, like my daughter, have had as many addresses as years of life, chances are, “home” will feel a bit complicated at some point. It might become a bit of a sore subject.
You might find yourself longing for someplace or someone lost or elusive.
That’s being human.
Home as an echo
That desire for “home” may look like a person, a place, a smell, certain belongings. But as wonderful as those homey things are, they are but an echo of our true home.
C.S. Lewis famously said in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world … Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with making your home feel comfortable and particular to you. If you’re able, fill it with the sound of a hometown band, the smell of your grandmother’s prized lilacs, the faces of your tiny children being held in their great-grandparents’ arms. It’s good to have a foretaste of the thing we truly long for—to whet our appetites for the warmth of arriving home that’s coming.
Let it be a daily reminder of the real, forever home you were created for.
But maybe you’re currently in a season of longing or loss of what feels like home. Maybe you moved right as a global pandemic hit the world and had no way of making local friends. Maybe you’re living in a hotel after a natural disaster wreaked havoc on your house. Or maybe, like me, you packed your belongings in a handful of suitcases, said goodbye on a computer screen, and started your life from scratch somewhere new.
Let this, too, be a daily reminder of the real, forever home you were created for.
The home we long for
My favorite passage in the Bible, Psalm 84, is a poem about longing for the home you love. It’s written like a love poem: full of longing, a hint of jealousy for anything that’s already there, a pep talk for the journey, and a comparison to things that pale in comparison.
What is this psalmist longing for? The courts of the Lord. Or in other words, God’s presence.
Like my daughter, we were all designed to feel safest, most at home, with a Person. The home we were all created for is God’s presence. That blissful feeling when we finally lie down at the end of a long day, the warmth of the welcoming hug after a long trip. All warm fuzzies, all relief, and all sense of belonging are all meant to arouse our desires for our true home.
God’s presence pursues us all the days of our life (Psalm 23). The Scriptures describe Him as a parent holding our hand, teaching us to walk (Hosea 11:1-4). As a Shepherd, guiding our way and protecting us from harm (John 11:14-15). As a Father, singing lullabies over a child in need of comfort (Zephaniah 3:17).
He is our home whether we live out of suitcases or in our cross-generational family Victorian. That is why the Psalms can say God is our refuge, and we will not be shaken.
The home we have
Is it the handmade Christmas stockings and Easter baskets stuffed in the closets? Children’s artwork taped to the refrigerator? My husband’s grandmother’s chipped end table settled in our living room? The house plant I adopted on Mother’s Day and dragged closer to my desk as I write because it makes me so happy?
Yes! And not really.
I’m grateful for this house and every single material belonging that fills it. Like the furniture and toys gifted to us when starting from scratch again in the States. Or the dishes my mom housed for us during our time overseas. Or our very first backyard for a summer kiddie pool. Being in the same zipcode with family. These are gifts I don’t take for granted.
And this home, like every other home, simply echoes my true home.
Mainly, what makes this house a home is that this is where God has me and God is here with me. This is the place where I am being assigned to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. To love my husband and my kids well, help make a home for us, and work to write words pointing to Jesus as good, true, and beautiful.
And I’m being asked to do that even if my house isn’t Pinterest-perfect, I’ve got three days of dishes in my sink, and my walls are still mostly blank even though we’ve lived in this house for nine months.
What makes your house a home?
Our homes can include fun ways of reflecting the specific glory He put in each one of us and the story He’s writing for us. So what makes your house a home?
What do the sheer number of books in your living room articulate about how God designed you? The tapestry from the Far East? The faces of your grandchildren proudly mounted on the main wall? The number of spare seats ready to pull out if a crowd shows up?
It can be a joy to fill your home with sensory cues that speak to your interest in music, the stamps on your passport, the people who shape you, and the items you find beautiful and life-giving. Pinterest projects, artful home decor, plants, candles, and heirlooms—these are good and a bit glorious! We can receive these, when we have them, as good gifts.
And when we don’t have them, let us lean into the longing.
The inadequacy of our earthly homes points us to the richer, more beautiful, full glory of experiencing the joys of God’s homey, hand-holding, lullaby-singing presence forever. We enjoy God’s presence now in part and more fully in eternity because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
Until then, may you find Him wherever you live; Acts 17:26-27 says He put you there to seek Him. Seek Him amidst your houseplants, clutter, bedtime songs, dirty dishes, fine china, memories, the arms of your loved ones (or the lack thereof).
He is there. He is your home.
Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Laura Way serves with FamilyLife as a writer and lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband, Aubrey, and their two vibrant young daughters. She and Aubrey lived in East Asia for seven years until relocating unexpectedly a couple years ago. She enjoys writing about becoming more fully human while sojourning through different places, seasons of life, and terrains of mental and spiritual health at HopeForTheSojourn.com.