read John 14. Home is one of those evocative concepts that we associate with fulfillment and yet longing at the same time. Home is something we pine for, but far too often with nostalgia. We have a set idea of what home should look like, but we spend much of our lives wishing for it rather than having it. About eight years ago, my definition of home was living under one roof with my husband and children. But when divorce struck, I felt like I had lost my home – and I couldn’t find one to replace it. It’s a common theme in life – losing home – and the question is: how do we find home again?
A year into my separation, I was thumbing through the gospel of John, and found a promise about home that I’d never seen before. Or perhaps I’d seen it, but it didn’t mean anything until I’d lost my home: “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me.” John 14:23-24. Joy, and its twin song, peace, flooded me. If God comes and makes His home with us, home becomes anywhere. We can be “homed” when we’re alone, in a crowd, or with our family. We can be “homed” when circumstances go our way, and when they don’t. Home is wherever we are. Home is everywhere.
But the rest of these verses stopped me short. Is Jesus saying God only makes His “home” with us if we do what He says? Is this promise of God dwelling with us conditional? That would make me homeless all over again. That would create more anxiety, not less – and all this in a chapter that begins with Jesus telling us not to “let” our hearts be troubled: “Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1. How can we not let our hearts be troubled, if God only comes and lives with us if we’re obedient to a perfect God – when we’re anything but perfect?
The answer lies in this concept of trust. If we trust God to do everything – including to help make us obedient – we can relax. Funnily enough, isn’t this why we’re seeking home in the first place – don’t we long for a place we can relax? We want to be able, as one of my nieces puts it, to put on our “loungy” clothes when we get home. We want to slip out our contact lenses; rip off our tight clothes; pop out our dentures; hang up our wigs; wipe off our make-up, and know that nobody minds. There’s no one in our homes we need to impress. There’s no one in our homes that will change their opinion about us, no matter what we wear, do or say. Home is the person to whom we can send a picture of ourselves at our worst – the day we break out, have bags under our eyes, sallow skin, and unwashed hair – and know they’ll laugh and love us more for it. Home is the place where we can just be, in all our stuff, and have nothing to prove. Home is where we can relax.
So if God invites us home, He must be inviting us to let Him take us home. God must be inviting us to get home by relaxing into Him. He wants us to lean into Him. It’s so easy to think God is like the humans we know. It’s so easy to think God is as fickle as we are. We forget that God really is kind. He really does love us. He really is rich in mercy. He really does have a good plan for our lives. And, as Jesus says twice in this chapter, He really will give us anything if we ask for it in His name.
So what if we ask for home? What if we ask for trust?
My experience is that the only way to move closer to God, home, trust and the peace we want is by being honest with God about how we can’t do these things. Embarrassing confession: a few weeks ago, I was driving alone on a highway at high speed in the fast lane. A car in front of me had the audacity to actually be going only the speed limit. I flashed my lights. The car wouldn’t move over. I flashed again. And again. The middle lane was full, so I zipped over to the slow lane, accelerated up and moved into the fast lane – feeling pretty proud of myself – only to have it happen all over again with the next car. Road rage had taken over. I wanted to go faster and faster and have the road to myself. It felt out of control. Finally, I moved over to the slow lane, and burst into tears. Why? I didn’t know, so I started to talk out loud to God – something you can do when you’re alone in a car. I discovered that the reason I had road rage had NOTHING to do with those poor cars I’d been terrorizing. Instead, I started to tell God the truth about who I was really angry at. I told him the truth about a situation that was troubling me: “I don’t trust You to help me with this.” I stopped praying perfect little prayers, and instead started telling God the truth about what I really wanted to do; who had hurt me; how much I wanted to hurt them back instead of forgive and let God handle it; and how I didn’t trust God to take care of my concerns at all.
And that was where I found home: when my prayers got their “loungy clothes” on.
It’s strange, and unexpected to us, but right there, in the midst of our blindest rages, our deepest fears, and our most honest doubts, God comes in. In telling Him how I didn’t trust Him, I was finally making room for Him to give me the trust that I lack. That day of road rages and tears changed everything. Trust has grown for me – the way the things of God always grow – slowly, in God’s time, emerging in a way that fills us with joy.
That’s why David Crowder can sing in a song called “You’re Everything” about how God can’t ask the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the cripple run, unless He does everything. How can God command us cripples to run to Him, UNLESS, He gives us the ability to run? We’re too blind to see heaven. God has to open our eyes. We’re too deaf to hear the voice of God. He has to unstop our ears. He has to do everything, including give us faith, including give us trust, including give us a vision of what we’re really pining for. We’re so blind, we think home looks very different than what really satisfies us. We think we’re longing for particular people, places and things, but really we’re longing for Eden. We can’t long for the right home. We can’t trust God. We can’t find our own way.
That’s why Jesus promises here: “I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:3. And there’s our solution to the seemingly conditional nature of this promise of home. God has taken care of the conditions. That’s the only way to get home – if God Himself comes and gets us, and takes us there, and stays with us, no matter where we go – even, as King David says, if we make our beds in hell. Psalm 139.
Jesus is the way home, as He says in this chapter. We can’t get home on our own. The entrance to Eden is blocked. So God made a new way. God Himself died for our disobedience, so that He can carry us over the threshold, over and over again, and bring us home – battered, exhausted and weary from banging on the wrong doors, searching in the wrong homes, looking in the wrong places, making our beds even in hell. When we admit we’re lost and can’t find our way home, He comes to us and makes His home in our hearts. He puts His Holy Spirit inside of us.
That’s when we become “chapeled.” We become “tabernacled.” As God promised Joshua, wherever we put our feet, we will be on land God has given us. Deuteronomy 11:24. When God comes into our hearts, our longing for Eden is satisfied, because Eden comes to us. The garden we can’t find on our own grows within us. God’s Spirit moves within us with supernatural love and joy. Streams of living water flow from our heart. We become obedient – not to robotically obeying rules and regulations – but to gratitude. We become obedient to the free gift of grace. We become obedient to His mercy, and knowing this helps make us merciful to others. We become obedient to being able to put on our “loungy” clothes, to being honest with God. We walk into our godly homes and kick off our shoes wherever we are, knowing we are loved. We become obedient to the way of the cross, of knowing God did all the work there, and all we can do is thank Him.
And somehow, in God’s miraculous way, this kind of “home love” from God helps us obey Him. Knowing Him in the intimacy of our homes – our hearts – helps us to follow more and more of His rules, because we start to trust Him. We start to believe, slowly, that His ways are not our ways – and His ways are better. We start to stop thinking we know best, and start doing things His way. We don’t obey to get to heaven, we obey because heaven has come to us, and we’re so grateful, our cups runneth over with love. We obey because there’s the same freedom in God’s rules that we find in our loungy clothes at home.
And once we’ve tasted our true homes, once we’ve dwelt in the “many rooms” of the house of the Lord – where else can we go? We may knock on the wrong door, but now we know it’s the wrong door. Before we were wandering around blind. Now our eyes are open, and when we walk down the garden path, we’re really really sorry. We know where home is – and we know how to get there. We get back the same way we got there in the first place. We block out the judgmental critical voices that tell us we’ve fallen too far for God to pick us up, and we ask to be carried back. And when we trust God even to give us trust, He meets us with kindness wherever we are: “You’re home now,” God says. “Welcome. This is where you belong.” Just when we think there’s no way home, it comes to life from out of the blue.
“Home- where the wheels are turning
Home- why I keep returning
Home- where my world is breaking in two
Home- with the neighbors fighting
Home- always so exciting
Home- were my parents telling the truth?
Home- such a funny feeling
Home- no-one ever speaking
Home- with our bodies touching
Home- and the cameras watching
Home- will infect what ever you do
Where Home- comes to life from out of the blue.” Brian Eno.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on June 11, 2012