I’ve been thinking about “home”. Several things seem to be prompting these thoughts: recently reconnecting with life-long friends in planning our 50th High School Graduation Reunion, yesterday’s conversation with my 95 year old Aunt Martha (the only living sibling of my folks’ 13 siblings), the 60’s Motown music playing in the background and just a curious desire to be transported back to the nostalgic days of my youth. I still consider “home” to be a small community in upstate South Carolina. My wife really doesn’t like for me to refer to Lyman as home because we have never lived there together. In fact, I’ve lived away from that place for the vast majority of my life. Still, it’s a place that has my heart.
In more recent times, I’ve returned there for sad duties: burying both of my parents, selling the family home, and attending other loved ones’ funerals. Yet, there has always been a sweetness about being there, sweet because I was home. Home, as Garrison Keillor would say of his mythical hometown of Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, the men good looking and the children above average”. Home, where the air is a little fresher, the water a touch tastier, and the conversations more engaging. That place has always felt more natural, familiar, and comfortable.
My love for my old stomping grounds sometimes puzzles me. Is it so alluring because of its innate qualities, or are those qualities alluring because they are home? I wonder if those born and raised in Lincoln or Lamarie or Lewiston could possibly feel about their home as I do about Lyman. Or, is it more likely there are many sad souls out there for whom a love of home is nothing but a place to escape from and never a place to escape to?
In the wonderful little book of Ruth in the Old Testament, Ruth left everything and everyone familiar to her in her homeland of Moab to go to Israel. What must have been in her thoughts? Was she nervous, or had Naomi enticed her with stories of her pre-famine life there? Did Ruth wrestle with the relative merits of a known discomfort over an unknown future? The text really doesn’t tell us, but I can only imagine that Ruth looked at the prospect of leaving home with some ambiguity.
What must have sealed her decision was her love for the LORD and His covenant people (although she most probably only knew one on the face of the earth...her mother-in-law, Naomi). She had confidence that a future with the Lord, His people, and Naomi in a strange land was better than being home alone.
We sometimes suffer from a very similar ambiguity. The knowledge that death awaits us fills us with an odd combination of anticipation and expectation, along with reluctance and dread. The dread, however, is unwarranted. He who told us of the glory of the land to which we will one day go is, like Naomi to Ruth, tender and caring. Yet, He is more. He is altogether trustworthy. He is neither lying nor remembering through rose colored glasses. When He promises He is going to prepare a place for us (John 14.2), we can rest assured that it is a place indescribably lovely. And there, where He is, we will finally be home.