Where is Home?: Katy Parker
When I moved to Wake Forest to start seminary, this was such a common question that I was asked. It was a common small talk, icebreaker type question that is frequently asked and answered. This may seem like a pretty straightforward question with an easy answer, but for me, it was complicated. My parents changed careers and moved to Southeast Asia after I graduated college. So, once I moved to Wake Forest I would not return to New Mexico, where I spent my childhood, for almost 9 years. My holidays and family visits bounced back and forth between my siblings and grandparents who lived in various locations across Texas. I certainly did not consider those places “home,” and my most recent “home” was in Nigeria where I lived for two years before moving to North Carolina.
Eventually, I learned to navigate this element of small talk much less awkwardly by answering the intended question without going into my life story. At the time, these conversations made me feel a little unsettled without roots to tie me anywhere. So because of this, I realized that home is an important place for us. Home is the place where we grow. It is where we feel safe and secure because we have roots to keep us from drifting away. We, as humans, take comfort in the familiar. It is the place that we feel free to be our most authentic self.
For many people, coming to Southeastern is the first time that they have truly moved away from home. Some have lived in the same house their entire lives or maybe even stayed close by for college. This transition may be the first time that you have had to step out of what is comfortable and familiar. Whether or not your experience at home is good, you still long for what you know. Instead, you find yourself in a new world filled with different people, different lingo, and maybe even different food. As you long for home, you can become increasingly discontent and isolated.
So What is Home?
Scripture shapes what home is from the very beginning. Adam and Eve were created and placed in the Garden, the perfect home that God created. They lived in perfect harmony with one another and with creation. Parents weren’t arguing. Roofs weren’t leaking. No one was worried that they couldn’t pay rent. We tend to romanticize the place that we call home, but when we take off the rose-colored glasses, we see that home isn’t always as perfect as we remember. For Adam and Eve, this wasn’t true. It really was good and perfect…until the Fall.
Once sin entered the world, everything was broken, and Adam and Eve could no longer stay in their idyllic home (Gen. 3:23). For Adam and Eve, their home was not located on a map, but it was the very presence of God. The place that they felt safe was at the feet of the Creator. The place that they found comfort and rest was walking with the One who breathed life into them, the brokenness that sin brought into their lives meant that they would no longer be home, but they would always long for it. This longing would be passed down to all mankind.
The narrative of scripture continues to describe how God’s people would exist in a state of transition to make their way back home. After God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, the journey seemed to be about the Israelites returning to a physical home, but when the Israelites created a golden calf to worship, God told the people that He would still give them the land that He promised, but God, Himself, would not go with them (Ex. 33:1-3). This was the moment that the people came to the startling realization that the promised land would not be home without the presence of God. Their immediate response to this news was mourning, and Moses pleaded on behalf of all the people, “If your presence does not go…don’t make us go up from here” (Ex. 33:15). For generations to come, God’s presence in the tabernacle in the midst of the people would literally be in the center of the nation of Israel. The ark of the covenant in the tabernacle would be a reminder to the people that the presence of God among them defined their home as they wandered in the desert. Home is where the presence of God is.
Many years later after Israel established itself as a kingdom in the land God promised, when David wanted to create a “house” for God’s presence to dwell, God reminded him in 2 Samuel 7 was the He never asked for a home made by man. Instead God promised David in vs. 11, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.” You see, we think of home as a location on a map, but God is showing us that earthly dwellings in cities made by man are temporary and ultimately fail to bring satisfaction for the longing that we feel. We desire for our true home. In God’s grand act of redemption, he is reconciling us to him in order to make his home in us and for us to find our home in his presence. God had no desire to have a building to dwell in. He wants to dwell in and with us. In this interaction with David, God was giving us a taste of what he would do through the coming Messiah.
Here’s the beautiful part of the story of our journey home. Jesus, God’s Son, left his perfect home in the presence of God, not because of his sin like Adam and Eve, but for the express purpose of bringing redemption and reconciliation for all people. This redemption would finally make it possible for us to return home. Christ’s work on the cross is the very reason that we can once again enter into the presence of the God and Creator of the universe. This not only allows us to spend eternity in the presence of God, but Christ’s death and resurrection allows us to have the Spirit of God living inside us (John 14:16-17). By sending the Spirit, God fulfilled his promise to David by making us His house, His dwelling place.
When we think about home through the lens of Scripture, we understand that we are always longing for home, no matter where our location is. But the home that we are longing for is the presence of God, which we spiritually have now with the presence of the Holy Spirit and we will one day have physically when we are reunited with God again in eternity.
How can we make home where you are now?
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Hebrews 11:13-16
When we start to think about how to apply a biblical view of home to our situations now, we need to keep in mind that God, first and foremost, calls us to himself. There is no location on this earth where we cannot find our home if we have the Spirit of God living inside us. Wherever God may lead us, we find the most comfort and security, have the freedom to be ourselves, and can be fully at rest in his presence. We don’t have to fear because we are in unfamiliar places. No matter what changes around us, God is never changing. He is always certain and unmoving. Because of this, we put our hope in Him.
It is important to continually remember that wherever our earthly home is, it is temporary. This world is not our home. God calls us to look forward to our heavenly home in His presence when He will finally make all things new again. He will restore everything. We do not find our hope in any house that we live in on earth. These houses, whether they give us wonderful or challenging memories, will not withstand the test of time. Even more importantly, God asks every one of us to be willing to follow Him anywhere that He leads. The command to all believers in Matthew 28 is to GO. We should be in a posture of readiness to go to the hard places where the need for Gospel hope is the greatest. We cannot do that if we are clinging to an earthly home.
On the other hand, we need to establish our home with some permanency. Or at least temporarily permanent. One of my friends grew up overseas. Her family moved multiple times to different countries in that time. Her mom would say, “There’s a big difference in being temporarily permanent and permanently temporary.” We know that we are temporary on this earth, but that is not an excuse for us to be root-less, to not establish connections or grow deep in our relationships with people. God wants us grow deep wherever He has planted us and to grow deeper in our relationships within the family of God. If we are permanently temporary, we are keeping community at a safe distance, probably out of fear of loss, and we are stunting our growth in the Lord.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” Jim Elliot
When God moves us to a new location, we need to be all there. We don’t know all the details, but we do know that God has ordained every minute that we are there. He knows every lost soul that we encounter and their need for the Gospel. He knows every opportunity for ministry and discipleship. He knows how to use the church that we join to sanctify us to make us more like Him. And He reminds us that our time in our earthly home is limited.
So jump in and plant those roots.
Embrace being a little uncomfortable.
Join a church.
Get plugged into ministries.
Meet your neighbors.
Engage the lost and dying where God has placed you.
Don’t waste this time and this home that God has given you for this season.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:3
Katy Parker is originally from New Mexico. She came to Southeastern in 2009 to complete her MDiv in Biblical Counseling. While she was in seminary, she met and married Jesse Parker, who is now a PhD student and the Director of Student Resources and Financial Aid. Katy graduated in 2014 and recently came on staff at the seminary as the Student Life counselor for women. They have two kids, Lottie (3 years) and Logan (11 months). The Parkers are members at Vision Church in Raleigh where Jesse serves as an elder.