Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)
Carol and I just returned from a two-week vacation road trip. We called it a “meander” as we followed back roads, many of which we had never driven, to visit the graves of our grandparents, which are spread across three states, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. We had never been to some of the graves. Other sites we had not visited since the funerals, now decades in the past. In two cases we had great difficulty finding the right location within the cemetery. At each stop we paused to reflect and pray. We took photos and kept careful notes for future reference.
The target of our travel was a family reunion in Ashland, Ohio, where Carol’s disabled younger sister resides in a nursing home. Two of our three sons and their families were able to join us. Our youngest son and his family missed the reunion at the last minute when his son suddenly became extremely ill the day before they were to depart. The poor little guy was hospitalized for three days in Georgia and they couldn’t make the trip. As a result, we still have never had all six of our grandchildren and their six parents together in the same place at the same time. We don’t have a complete family portrait because one doesn’t exist.
After a few additional days with Carol’s older sister, we departed Ohio for Minnesota early Tuesday morning. We had allotted two days for the 900 mile drive, but my foot was glued to the accelerator. We drove straight through with little stress. Traveling west energized me in a way I had not experienced when we were driving east. I was ready for home.
When I told this story to a friend yesterday here in Clarkfield, he asked a great question: “Is this home?” It was an insightful question because pastors come and go. It can be difficult for pastors to identify a specific and temporary location as home.
“Yes, it is,” I immediately replied. While I enjoy visits to my childhood home in Ohio, I feel at home in Clarkfield, Minnesota. Since my dad had traveled to attend the reunion, this became our first ever trip to Ohio in which we didn’t visit either a childhood home or a parent’s retirement residence.
I don’t talk much about it, but I’m prone to homesickness when I travel for retreats and short-term missions trips. For me, the difference is whether I’m with Carol. If Carol is with me, I’m OK. Long ago I concluded that where Carol is, I’m at home. She is the cure for my homesickness.
The Apostle Paul experienced the same thing, except he was homesick for heaven. Being with the Lord is the ultimate cure for homesickness. Heaven is our true home. We are merely transients on earth.
Twenty years ago when we bought our first house, I noticed how realtors don’t sell houses. They sell homes. Go ahead and check any listing. The place for sale is always a home, never a house. I consider that false advertising. In reality, a house is all realtors can sell, even if they won’t admit it. They can’t sell a home. And we can’t buy one, either. We can buy a house. But we have to create a home.
In the New Testament, the common word for house (oikos) is often translated “home.” That’s legitimate because a house is a natural context to create a home. We live in a house. We can make it our home.
There’s another word for home (endemeo), a verb which means “to be at home” or “to feel at home.” It occurs only three times in the New Testament, all in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9, where Paul addresses being at home in the physical body or being at home with the Lord in heaven. Living in a house, even your own house, is not the same as being at home.
This is a crucial distinction: A house is a noun, but a home is a verb. A house is merely an object made of concrete and wood, but a home presses our foot to the accelerator. A house is a place to take off your shoes. Home is the reason to take them off.
Yes, Clarkfield is my home – for now. But a yearning grows in my heart for another home in a different dimension. The older I get, the more my foot presses to the accelerator for heaven. That’s my true home.