We’re in the midst of filing out piles of paperwork from re-entry cards to ministry profiles to insurance claims. They all ask similar questions in different ways. Where do we live? What is our permanent mailing address? Where is our citizenship? Are we going for a visit when we fly from Ethiopia to the U.S. and back or is the “visit” part the other way around?
What and where is home? When one lives and has a job as a guest in a country that is different from that which one grew up in, different from where one holds citizenship, different from where one’s family resides and the location of which changes every few moths or years, that can be a complicated and confusing question. Depending on one’s viewpoint or, more accurately, one’s state of mind at the moment, one could be privileged to have multiple homes or pitied and considered “homeless” (in a sense).
And, to add to the questions, there is empirical and anecdotal evidence that when children grow up with this kind of lifestyle they will be forever changed because of it. They are called “third culture kids.” They grow up without a sense of home in the traditional sense of a particular city or house. And they get used to fluid and constantly changing relationships as they experience peers coming and going, changing from year to year.
A wise counselor advised us to encourage Grace and Hannah to view home as where the four of us are together, therefore emphasizing relationships over place. This is good, especially for our situation, but then I wonder, what if something happens to one of us? What about when they leave for college, probably in a country different from where they spent all of their elementary and secondary school years and different from where we may then reside, but is technically where their passport says is home. Can they feel like this is home?
So, is home a place? Is home where a person’s most intimate relationships reside? Can home change throughout one’s lifetime or will it always remain in one place or with a few people?
In the end, I don’t think we have to choose between home as a place or home as a relationship. It is and will be both. Jesus speaks of leaving his disciples in order to return to the Father.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’” (John 14:28)
He also promises to prepare a place in his Father’s home for his people.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2-3)
So, Jesus leaves the realm of the purely physical and visible world in order to return to the heavenly realm of the Father, all with the intention of making it our home as well. And in Revelation 21 we see the physical and spiritual realm fully and perfectly combine in the new heaven and new earth as God’s heavenly realm is fully visible and fully redeems all things on earth. And so our home is and always be will be a place.
But Jesus also says…
“You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:4)
Thomas doesn’t understand and questions this. Jesus answers…
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The key characteristic of the new heaven and the new earth is the very presence of the Father.
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
In the description of the new city, the new Jerusalem, the Father is the only and perfect source of life and light…
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city…There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.” (Revelation 22:1, 2a, 5a)
And so our home is and always will be a relationship with the Father, through Jesus the son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.