I’m the kind of girl that likes to put her roots down in one place for a good long time. Plant gardens, paint the walls, watch the trees grow. Maybe I’m just a homebody. Maybe it was because of the way I grew up.
Momma had to work up to three jobs at a time to make ends meet and provide basic needs. Money was tight so if the rent went up, we packed up and moved. By sixth grade, I’d been in five different schools, all in different towns and districts. But Momma loved us to the moon and back, and we did what we had to do to make it. Moving a lot was one of those things.
Around the time I was ten, Mom had an accident that rendered her unable to work for many months, tipping the delicate balance away from being able to pay rent or make a living wage.
So we became functionally homeless. We’d moved so much. That was normal for us. But to move out and have nowhere to go, well, that was-- new.
It seemed perfectly normal at the time, but as I write this it is stunning to me now how generous a family was at the church we’d been attending for a short while. They had a small starter home, maybe 1000 square feet. 3 bedrooms and 1 ½ bath. After losing our apartment, this family moved us into their home with them, converting a single car attached garage into quarters for Mom and raising bunk beds in their teenagers’ bedrooms for my little brother and me. My 8 year old brother shared a room with their 13 year old son, and I shared a room with their 17 year old daughter.
Their outreach saved us from spending another sketchy night at the half-way house where we’d all three slept huddled on one bed.
Most all our worldly goods were packed up into the barn of a friend, and we moved in with this family with our clothes and not much else. They fostered us for several months while Momma got back on her feet again. Thank God for those church people and grace upon grace upon grace.
Life had been very interesting up to this point for our Mom, my brother and me. But suffice it to say, I wasn’t always able to articulate my fears very well, much less my dreams. It just wasn’t practical. Too many moves and start-overs. Lots of bottled up stuff in my young self. But God saw my restless, upended heart and all that remained unspoken.
One night, I laid awake on the bottom bunk listening to the steady respirations of my new roommate. I had recently given my heart to Jesus at the Vacation Bible School the summer previous, but I had no theology for hearing the voice of God, in theory or in practice. But that didn’t matter. Into a just-uprooted-again soul, with no home to call her own, God whispered:
“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in me.”
That was it. Nothing more. I don’t remember if I’d heard those words somewhere before. Maybe old Pastor Bob with the Texas drawl at our little Baptist Church had said it. Maybe I’d heard it at vacation bible school. Maybe it was just a little gospel seed planted that was taking root. It didn’t matter. It was what I needed to hear to put my restless heart to sleep as I laid in the filtered moonlight.
Because of being constantly uprooted, home and stability always have been very important to me. While friends with wanderlust sought out endless adventure and world travel, I just wanted one thing: a home. The same address, the same four walls, a place of my own. And I threw myself into creating that sacred space, filling it with love, creativity and joy.
Many years after 10-year-old-me heard God’s whisper, He apparently wanted to continue the conversation, picking right up where He’d left off. One day I was reading from the epistle of John, chapter 14; reading the very words He'd spoken that night:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me."
I continued reading:
“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and will receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
When God whispered to 10-year-old-me, He was saying, “I am Jesus, believe in me. Put your faith in me. Don’t worry. Don’t be troubled.”
When He continued the conversation years later, He wanted to speak to older-me about my being homesick, not for a temporary address but an eternal one. All that time since I was a child He'd been saying I had a secure home with Him.
The reason God has etched home into my heart goes beyond the childhood longing and lack. It is because the longer I live, the more I realize my real home is someplace else. It's feeling less and less like home in this old world and my heart’s yearning grows stronger by the day. I was made for another place. My home there has been purchased and prepared, the full payment made on a bitter and beautiful day, by the same One who stooped down to speak to a child in a borrowed bed.
This magnetic attraction toward my eternal home isn’t a death wish. It’s the familiar, distant call of a place that I’ve never been-- but where I fully belong. No longer a sojourner. No longer a stranger. No longer homesick. No more living in this life’s rentals.
And the same One who spoke those words to a homeless ten year old will be the same One waiting on the front porch of Heaven's Home throwing out the welcome mat the minute my eyes close in death, or they open wide in resurrection.
“If we find ourselves with a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis