Have you ever had a theme song for a particular season of life, an anthem that if you were quiet enough, you could almost hear spinning through the air? For the entire first year we lived in New England, mine was Home by Phillip Phillips. Nothing too flashy or deep; it just caught at me and carried me along. As a native Okie, being transplanted to the frigid Northeast was quite a shock to the system. My family, my friends, my comfort zone all stayed snugly put in the heartland while I journeyed far away. I did a lot of thinking about home during that time—what does it mean, where can we find it, why does it matter, things like that. Here’s what I learned (then and since):

1. Home ultimately and eternally isn’t a place but a Person. Tim Keller says that God is our heart’s true home, the only place the fire in the hearth never dies. No matter where you are located or how much money you pour into the space around you, it will only ever be a faint shadow of the dwelling place we long for and find in the Lord. The most Pinterest-worthy houses in existence can’t compare to the safety and comfort and light and satisfaction that will meet us when this life is over. But we don’t have to wait until glory to experience this: we get tastes of it here and now. Jesus pulls us close, and we come home, if only for a few moments at a time.

2. Home is temporarily where God calls us to be, not where we come from. If the saying is true that home is where the heart is, and my heart is always yearning to see my family and friends in Oklahoma, I can’t be truly and deeply faithful here. This is my home for now; if God moves us again, my home will change. I can’t remain more attached to a temporary home than to my eternal home and what He calls me to.

3. Home is different for everyone: some crave silence and rest while others need fun activity. William McMichael writes, “The home fits you, and you fit the home.” When you walk into someone else’s place, you can see bits and pieces of who they are. Smells, colors, textures, pictures, sounds: a home is a mirror. The innumerable differences in homes point to the varied ways we reflect God. It’s okay if your place wouldn’t make it onto the glossy cover of a magazine. Bask in the goodness of your Creator, allow that to infuse your surroundings, and let it be enough.

4. Home should be intentional. If you struggle with keeping a semblance of order (like I do), I highly recommend Sarah Mae’s 31 Days to Clean. One of the daily challenges is to come up with a home manifesto, a sort of purpose statement. Mine was this:

My home will be a haven, a refuge, a hospital, an asylum for those in need of grace. When I maintain outward order with an inward quiet and gentle spirit, I put my Savior on display. Practicing (not perfecting) hospitality is my calling, and winning souls by gospel truth my goal. While it would be nice to have a home that is always beautiful and sweet-smelling, filled with great music and tasty food, I need grace, too. I will aim for excellence but require the goodness of God when I fail. And even then the gospel will be active, reminding me that though I strive to love well with my home and my heart, when I am weak, then God is strong.

The thing I love about this challenge is that it keeps me from being lazy about the point of my home. (And yes, that wording is dubious; it’s God’s home, not mine.) If I don’t spend time thinking about purpose, things slip into a routine of mindlessness and “we’ve always done it that way.”

5. Finally, home can be carried with us to the world. Believers, like turtles, can pick up the best of what we know as home and take it to others. (Unlike turtles, though, we can actually invite others in.) There is a vast expanse of spiritual homelessness just outside our doors, souls longing to belong, hearts hungry to be welcomed and loved and known.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

(John 14:23)

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