As I write this, I’m at my parent’s home in North Adams, Michigan. The town is a small farming community of about five hundred people in the southern part of the state. I was in the region for ministry, so I planned to spend a few extra days with my parents. They still live in the home where I grew up. It is an 1800’s, double-brick, two-story home with a sprawling front porch supported by grand white columns. The house is on Main Street, and yet we had a cornfield in our back yard. A vast amount of my youth was spent exploring the woods adjacent to our property.
When I was a child, my brother and sister and I split a paper route for the Jackson Citizen Patriot. My section of town was the closest to home since I was the youngest of the three. Seven days a week I climbed aboard my bicycle, slung a bag of newspapers over one shoulder, and rode the sidewalks to deliver the news to homes scattered across the eastern side of town.
Now, forty years later, a bit has changed. The sidewalks have crumbled a little more. A few of the homes have fallen into disrepair, and the local park down the street from my home now has a shelter built where a tall maple tree once shaded us as children. In all, much of the charm I remember from my childhood is still there, but there is also a sense that the community is slowly fading into the fog like Brigadoon.
I went for a walk to stretch my legs and retrace some of the route from my paper delivery days. As I walked, I thought about home. I thought about my childhood home and all it represents, both good and bad. I thought about the home in which I now live in Florida. Finally I settled onto a bench at the park down the street, and my mind turned to my real home, as in my final heavenly home.
I am looking forward to the day I finally get to go home. Not Florida. Not Michigan. Home. I am not discouraged or depressed. I am not on suicide watch. I am quite blessed actually. It is just that I want to be with the one I love the most. These earthly homes were never meant to satisfy. Even with all the material blessings I’ve enjoyed, on a clear starry night I still find myself looking into the heavens, longing to be with God.
Do you long to be home? Perhaps you understand how that feels.
I am reminded of the words Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. This is what he said: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV).
If you haven’t noticed by now, everything in this world is slowly decaying. Like the sidewalks on my paper route gradually returning to dust, everything we see is eventually going to dwindle away. It is the things we cannot see that really matter, because they are the things that are eternal.
Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3, ESV).
When we read those words, we tend to focus on what the place will be like, but the whole point of Jesus’ preparing a place is so that where he is, we can be also. It is about being with him. It is that place where we are finally restored in perfect relationship with him. The God who created us to be in relationship with him is preparing a place for us so that we can spend eternity with him.
Sadly, we’ve created a heaven that is all about us. We think we will have a nicer house in heaven, and we will be so wealthy we will use gold to pave the streets. Won’t it be grand! Just imagine! But it is a version of the health and wealth prosperity gospel couched in conservative Christian theology. In the end, it is humanism. Humanism is the belief that the end of all being is the happiness of man. The Christian version is that you can be saved so you can be happy after you die. But the gospel declares that the end of all being is the happiness of God. It is God who longs for restoration with his creation. He is the one who made a way through his Son so that he could be reconciled with us. He is the one preparing a place for you and me so that we can be with him, so that he can be happy. It is all about God.
My friend, the things that seem so important to you today will likely not matter after a thousand tomorrows. What is it that is weighing on you? Have you forgotten that this world is not really your home? Perhaps your challenge is only a reminder of what really matters – the things we cannot see.
When I eventually die, I think it would be nice to have “Finally Home” etched onto my headstone. But even that headstone will slowly crumble and return to dust. Of course, by then it won’t really matter.
I will finally be home.
This article was originally published in the October 2016 Newsletter.