My husband, Bill, and I had our first date when he came to my parents' house to see me during a college winter break. We went downstairs to the finished basement, a rec room with old furniture and a ping-pong table. We sat on the old brown couch with nubby fabric, sharing our hopes and dreams with each other. I remember feeling comfortable and safe with Bill. I remember the somewhat pungent smell of the old couch. And I remember when we talked how we both were aching for home- a home of our own. He wanted to build a house, and I wanted to nest in one, decorate it, and fill it with all the things that would make me smile with joy.
What we wound up doing instead, after we were married, was moving- a lot. We moved twenty times in twenty-three years of marriage. The early moves were due to seminary housing constraints and internships in pastoral ministry. Then the moves were to small pastorates in New England in hopes of revitalizing them. After finally deciding to leave the renewal ministry, we needed to find a way to make a living. So we entered the world of rehabbing houses: buying a home, moving into it, fixing it up, and selling it. We were young. We were hopeful. And we kept moving onward.
If someone had told me when I, Lauren the Homebody, was a child, that I would marry and spend the next twenty plus years in a continual state of moving onward but never really settling down, I would have barricaded myself in my room and dared someone to drag me out of there! But God knew the journey He had for me. The Lord knew the temptation I had to make my home base my refuge- to the point that I might never want to venture out.
Many of us struggle with this. After all, we live in a precarious world. Ever since 9/11, Americans have been increasingly aware of feeling at risk in a scary world. Some people escape from the stress and the tension of our times by imagining that perfect home they can create, the place where they will, then, be safe and sound.
The rise of Jane Austen’s popularity and the demand for British dramas depicting grand homes and the sweet social graces of yesterday are not the only signs that we long for a place where we will feel at peace. Home renovation has become a national pastime, with day time cable shows covering every aspect of home revitalization, interior decorating, gourmet cooking, custom closet organization, entertaining secrets, and more.
The idea is that we can create a perfect place to come home to, subtly implying that then we will experience comfort and security, the promise of perfect peace. Then we will have no fears, no insecurity, no alarm. (And we have our intricate, expensive home security systems to help with this!)
We, as Christians, know where our perfect peace should be. We know it’s in Him, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes, though, we want something more concrete to touch, to look at, to nest in. Sometimes we want a tangible fortress, a secure, rock solid home. The Psalmist shares how we all long for the place where we will be eternally comforted, protected and at peace- in the presence of the living God.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Psalm 84:1-4 NIV).
Sometimes waiting to get to His House, our eternal home, is too much waiting for us. We want to nest and find our complete security in our home, right now.
I’ve had many nests in many places. When I look back at each time we would get ready to move, I realize the thing that kept me going, that enabled me to make it through that draining process of packing and moving, was the fact that I looked forward to my next house. I envisioned it beautifully decorated with gleaming new fixtures and warm welcoming rooms. I held that image in my mind as a child clutches its security blanket.
I believe God has allowed me to be stretched in this area of moving and learning to make every house we lived in a temporary home. He desires to see me enlarged in my focus, in my longing.
God knows the desire we have to settle down, to feel safe and secure at home. He gave us this “nesting” desire. But our frenzied pursuit of the perfect home could very well be an indication that we haven’t fully rested all our hope on the Eternal Home we have ahead of us. This desire for nesting, for making a house into a home, is an indicator of our heart’s true desire. It’s an appetite for an eternal safety and security, really. We will find it realized fully on the day we stand in awe of Him, having arrived at our final Home.
Until then, I pursue with delight the things that help turn each house into a home. I enjoy baking bread and pies, decorating with vivid colors, having an afternoon teatime with my beautiful antique cups and saucers. I creatively plan how to beautify each house. I do the best that I can with each house we live in.
But no home will ever satisfy me perfectly and eternally. That Home awaits me, and I keep my eyes heavenward ... every time we move.