Home is Where the Heart Is
You have probably heard the saying, "Home is where the heart is." For some, the heart longs for the open terrain of the south and the slower lifestyle. For others, home is right where you are and you hope to never leave. Maybe there is some truth to the phrase. I know when I am out of town, I long to be home with my family and church. I don't long to be home because of the location or the color of the walls, but because of the love I experience and give there. So in a real sense, home is not defined by a place. Home is more about a people and the expression of love given and received.
I was recently reading Psalm 84. Psalm 84 was written by one of the sons of Korah. The sons of Korah were a part of the tribe of Levi who functioned like custodians in the Temple. More than likely, Psalm 84 was written while this son of Korah was fleeing with David during Absalom's rebellion. Psalm 84 reveals a man who is homesick, a man who longs to be home near the Temple (God's presence in God's place). Knowing this context makes the words of this Psalm so much heavier.
The Psalmist writes of his homesickness in verses 1-2: "How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God."
It's almost as if the psalmist is drooling over the thought of being home. Home is where his family probably is. Home is what is familiar and comfortable. But home is primarily where God's presence is. His soul is longing so deeply that he bursts out with song to the LORD.
Ask yourselves this: How often do our longings for home have anything to do with God? Do we feel like pilgrims away from the presence of God? Do we near the point of fainting when we think of being in his presence? Or is our definition of home primarily about us? I grew up in a place I no longer consider home. San Diego is paradise in comparison to my hometown and I love it. I love the weather, the people, and the food. But, I am still a pilgrim. This is not meant to be my home. In fact, I would argue that this is the reason most people never find contentment in their physical home. We always believe the grass is greener...until we get there and realize there is still an unfulfilled longing in us.
Augustine famously wrote in his Confessions, "Thou hast formed us for thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." We were not created to find our home here. Although the Day is coming when God will set up the New Heavens and New Earth here, we are citizens of a different kingdom here and now (Phil. 3:20). This means it's ok to be homesick in this life. Homesickness is expected because home is where the heart is, and for followers of Jesus, our hearts are with him. Home is in his presence receiving and giving love.
Psalm 84:5 expresses this same truth when the son of Korah writes, "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion." The Psalmist is basically saying what Augustine said. Our hearts were made for God and we will continue searching until we find our home with God.
As Richard Phillips says in regards to this Psalm, "This does not trivialize our trials and sorrows. Rather, it explains why only the pilgrim heart finds such blessing in a world like ours. It is not those who trudge along miserably who are blessed, but those who have the pilgrim spirit, who have the highway not merely under their feet but also within their hearts, whose passion is to press forward in the knowledge of God, to gain a greater possession of heavenly things, drawing nearer to a vision of God's shining city."
The reason pilgrims have home in their heart is because they have come to know the wonderful God who is love (1 John 4:8). They have received the love of the Father who sent his Son to show us what love is (1 John 4:9-10). Pilgrims have become so astonished that God loves them that their greatest desire is to be with him. Prior to Jesus dying, he shockingly broke the news to his disciples that he would be leaving them. After leaving his home and becoming a pilgrim himself upon the earth, Jesus died to make his home with us (John 14:23). If that were not enough, he told his disciples that he was returning home but that it was better for him to leave because he was sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). God the Spirit now makes his home among those who have received the love of God. Unlike the son of Korah, we need not look for home in another city, state, or country but can rest in knowing that God has made his home in us.
And yet, when that ache for home comes, it is a reminder that the Spirit is a down payment/guarantee of that Day when Jesus will complete his earth renovation project and we will see him face to face. We will receive his love and give that love in return to him and others for all eternity. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also" (John 14:3).