Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. ~ John 15:4
When I was in grade school, our family of four went everywhere in our shiny black Dodge van. I especially remember driving home in the wintertime from Grandma’s house in Kansas to our home in Central Texas. It was usually cold, snowy, and icy while the wind blew our van from one side of the road to the other, but she always held her ground.
Mom and Dad sat in the front and talked softly while they listened to the radio. My sister and I wrapped ourselves in blankets and slept on the cushioned bench seats. Our van was a cocoon that held us and kept us safe. Despite the winter weather outside, I always felt the warmth, the love, and the assurance of a home inside our van, and I never wanted those car trips to end.
What and where is home to us? Is it a place or is it a state of being?
Jesus quietly says, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you” (John 15:4). “Home is not a heavenly mansion in the afterlife but a safe place right in the middle of our anxious world,” writes Brennan Manning. Where do we find home when our lives become chaotic, anxious, or full of fear and worry?
Perhaps we remember that elementary teacher who greeted us each day with a warm hug, wrote kind words on our math homework, and spoke words of encouragement to us. Her classroom, decorated with festive colors was a home away from home.
I loved the church (Wylie United Methodist Church) of my childhood. It was not exciting; it was quiet and peaceful. I could sit still in the sanctuary with my thoughts and my questions, and it was ok. If the sermon dragged on or if I was just tired, nobody cared if I nodded off. The old hymns were not rock-n-roll, but they did settle in my heart unbeknownst to me. The grey-haired elders—Mr. Smith, Dr. Sewell, and Mrs. Neighbors—shook my hand or hugged me after church. They asked about school and the activities I participated in at school. I realize that not everyone had a welcoming church home, but I am thankful to this day for the one that nurtured me and made me feel comfortable, loved, accepted, and at home.
I hope the children, youth, and adults who pass through our doors will remember our little church as a place of welcome and acceptance where they felt loved and valued. And if they move away and hit a hard spot in the road and don’t know where to go or what to do, maybe they will remember that there are churches out there that can be a home.
“Home is the sacred space—external or internal—where we don’t have to be afraid; where we are confident of hospitality and love,” says Brennan Manning. To those of us fleeing from hostile boards, incorrigible neighbors, or ourselves, Jesus says, “You have a home. I am your home. You will find it to be an intimate place of compassion and forgiveness.” “It is right where you are, in your innermost being. In your heart,” says Manning. Home is always as close as our next breath.
Where is home? Where do we spend our time? Do we dwell in the house of Grace, Love, and Peace or do we dwell in the house of fear?
Nouwen writes, “When fear pervades our lives we are living in the house of fear, and from there we look out on the world.” Fear can paralyze us, and people with power often use fear to inject inner tension, divide us from one another, and control us.
Our Creator’s house of love expands our hearts, our community, and our relationships. The house of fear constricts our heart, disables our relationships, robs us of joy, and immobilizes us.
Why are we so afraid? While we profess faith in God’s unconditional love, many of us still live-in fear says Manning. Nouwen remarks, “Look at the many “if” questions we raise. What am I going to do if I don’t find a house, a job, a friend, a spouse, or a benefactor? What am I going to do if they fire me, if I get sick, if an accident happens? What if my marriage does not work out? What if someone steals my money, breaks into my house, or kills me?” As Manning says, “Once these questions guide our lives, we take out a second mortgage in the house of fear.”
How much time do we spend dwelling in the house of fear building higher walls, accumulating more weapons, hoarding our possessions, and passing more laws and policies to keep strangers and ideas at bay? How much time do we spend in Christ’s house of grace living in a spirit of compassion, understanding, acceptance, and reverence for ourselves and others? We might spend so much time living in fear that we do not think it is possible to live in a home full of love, joy, peace, and goodness.
My sister totaled our black van one day while skipping class with a few of her high school friends. Thankfully, everyone was alright. Years later in life, my father died and then my sister. Not much remains from that precious old van and the family she carried. But one thing does remain, love (1 Corinthians 13:8) and that is enough. Love sees us through and takes us home.
May we find our home in God’s love and grace. “For surely goodness and loving kindness will follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). Amen.
Blessings and peace,