What makes a place a home? Is it the physical house you live in? Is it the familiar route you drive every day to work? Is it the memories made on the front lawn or the family friends down the road?
It dawned on me one evening that there isn’t just one thing or one right answer to this question.
It was late and I was driving home down country roads after a pleasant evening with some ladies from church. I had the window rolled all the way down, of course, and, turning my music off, savored the stillness. Just the crinkle of my tires on the gravel and the sound of buzzards somewhere in the thick darkness, which was pierced only by the light of a few twinkling stars. The warm evening breeze kissed my face and the the piney, woodsy scent of the trees gave me chills of pleasure, translating to a wide grin and closed – er – squinted eyes.
I wondered to myself how a place can become more than just a dot on the map. How do clusters of buildings and acres of land wheedle their way into your heart and how do you come to love it? Now while all of us Christians are never truly home until we reach heaven – our final and ultimate, glorious destination – I do think there is a degree of “settledness” or lack thereof surrounding the place that we inhabit. While I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I do think that a big part of this settledness is borne out of experiences and memories made. Remember that country song “The House that Built Me,” by Miranda Lambert? I wanted to cry the first time I listened to it, emotion welling up inside of me as I thought of the homes that do indeed harbor the memories of days, months, and years of my life gone by:
I thought of my pink bedroom with puffy clouds painted on the walls and hours of “mommying” my dolls, the kitchen where I first learned to bake bread, the steep hill where I propped up a tiny fort with my brothers and ate under ripened pears from our tree in the backyard, the driveway where Mom let me take the wheel of Daddy’s old Buick for the first time with trembling and sweaty palms, the dining room table where birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas celebrations took place and the love shared between each person there, the pasture my room overlooked with my beloved horse and the times spent riding, brushing, and feeding him every single day, the walking trail through the woods that I spend hours in prayer, singing, quizzing myself with my anatomy flashcards, and processing my thoughts aloud, the coffee shops where I giggled with friends over lattes and shared our hearts with each other, and the parks where I studied many an hour throughout nursing school. Oh, what sweet times!
Looking back, it does hurt a little and I want those times back again. But as time moves on, people change, circumstances change, and few things remain the same, even if I had lived in the same place my whole life. The only thing that does not, nor ever will change is the steadfast faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. All we can do is cherish what He has given us today, here and now. Can we trust in Him fully and completely? Is that enough for us?
Yesterday in my Bible reading, I was encouraged by Psalm 16:5-11. The Psalmist’s contentment in the Lord being our portion and our cup struck me in a new way as I pondered the gift of Himself to us. Read this slowly:
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
We are not promised tomorrow and cannot even anticipate most of the changes that will happen in our lives. Yet we can rest, unshaken, in the promise of God’s gift of Himself to us, that we may experience fullness of joy and everlasting pleasure in Him.
I now remind myself that here, in Minnesota, are many memories yet to be made and experiences yet to happen. Yes, it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to call a new and unknown place your home. “Beginning again” in a sense is exciting, but overwhelming, and oh yes, discouraging at times. Over time, however, chances are I will drive the same roads, I will find kindred spirits, attend the same church, work in the same job, run the same trails, shop at the same Aldi, and this will be my new home for a season.
It’s a fresh start and a bright beginning.
Even more importantly, though, is that it’s held – all of it – by my heavenly Father, who knows me infinitely more than I will ever know myself and cares for me inexplicably.
In that I find contentedness, rest, and thankfulness.