Week 19: The Return Home

The return home is always a little sad and a little bit of a relief. Like when you were a kid and you’d come home from staying at Grandma’s house. It was sad. Coming home meant a return to stricter rules, not as much “yes”, earlier bedtimes, and not as many cookies. On the other hand, it was a much more comfortable routine, you got to sleep in your own bed, and let’s face it… you missed your mom and dad… or at least the dog.

This week I told this story in my message about returning home.

My parents rented homes or lived in church housing my whole life. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that my dad took it upon himself to start building a house for my mother with his own two hands (because that is how Stan rolls). My father quite obviously possesses skills that were not passed down to me. I’m still not sure yet if the timing of this change in their lives was calculated or just coincidence. But my mother and father seriously and truly dropped me off at college with a suitcase of clothes and my mini-fridge and then moved to an address that I didn’t know.

It didn’t even occur to me until I tried to come home after the first month of college. I thought I’d come home for a visit because I ran out of underwear three days before and needed to do laundry. So I hopped in my 1991’ Chevy Beretta. I drove two hours to arrive at a dark house that no one lived in and it didn’t dawn on me until I was in the driveway that this was no longer my home. In fact, I didn’t have a home any more because the new house that my parents had built in was completely devoid of any memories or… a bed for me… as I soon found out. I Nextel walkie-talkie beeped my parents (this is before GPS) and got directions to their home in the next town and pulled in only to find I’d be sleeping on a futon, all my stuff was in boxes in the basement, and they had given away my two cats to my ex-girlfriend who was a little crazy and little Pigpen and Speedbump were never seen or heard from again.  

To make matters worse when I came back in the summer they had moved in a young girl who needed help. So my mom took me down to the unfinished basement and showed me the mattress on the concrete floor next to the furnace and the water heater where I would be sleeping. She was so excited to show me that she had strung a single strand of Christmas lights above the bed on a metal support beam… you know… to cheer the place up.

That summer I landed a job that allowed me to stay in a hotel room with a friend on the company dime. Coming home is a little bitter sweet. When Israel started their first return, it was bittersweet as well. The Bible tells us that after the foundation line had been outlined for the temple that would be rebuilt, half of God’s people rejoiced with a shout of triumph and the other half wept and made a sound of great woe.  One group was joyful at a brand new thing they had never seen or experienced and the other group was sorrowful because the new thing was not going to be what it once was.

Isn’t that always the case?

Every presidential election, every software update, every new worship song at church… one group joyful at the new… one group sad that it is not what it once was. I don’t know that we will ever escape this devision among us. That duplicity exists in our own hearts. We mourn and celebrate at the same time. We cry tears of joy. We experience inappropriate nervous laughter. We celebrate funerals and do all other kinds of paradoxical nonsense because our feelings don’t fit in boxes.

But where is God in this story?

I told that story about my parents to illustrate my experience, but what about their experience? I remember my dad calling me at college to express his frustration that I didn’t call often enough, I didn’t visit often enough, and he and my mother would call to say they were worried about me and wished I would come home.

When I did come home my mother would NEED to give me things. She would fill a laundry basket with half eaten bags of chips and cookies. My mother would thrown open every cabinet to find something she could send back to college with me. Even though I started doing my own laundry when i was 12, it became her mission to do it for me.

I wonder how God felt about his people returning. I wonder how many gifts he gave. I wonder how overbearing and eager he felt to bless his children.

I know sometimes we feel like praying is like calling your mother. We have to do it and it seems like we just spoke this morning. Can you believe that God misses us. He is eager to hear from us. He has his cupboards open wide and he is waiting for us to stop rolling our eyes at him and instead… open our eyes and see how much he adores us.

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