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. Hebrews 11:13-14
In the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” (the 2003 remake with Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt), the Baker family moves from a small town in downstate Illinois to an affluent suburb of Chicago. The oldest son of the family, Charlie, is very unhappy with the move.
I would think that most 17 year olds would be looking forward to a move like that, shaking the dust of the small town off their feet. But Charlie and the rest of the Baker children are not happy with the new move. They liked their life in the small town.
There are a lot of stories about young men and women who dream of leaving home, of leaving their small town and making their fortunes or a name for themselves in the big city.
When I was younger, this was my story as well.
I was in high school. It was the early 80’s. I was involved with my church’s youth group and went to church pretty faithfully. I was pretty grounded in the faith. But I also had dreams and desires about how my life would be and it didn’t involve professional church work. The early 80’s was the advent of the personal computer. And I was fascinated with them. I had graduated from a TRS-80 (Radio Shack’s model) to an Apple ][+ to an IBM PC (remember those commercials with the Charlie Chaplin look-alike?). I could program fairly well in the most BASIC of computer languages. I was no prodigy like my best friend Mike, but I enjoyed computers and thought I had a future in them. My dream was to leave Fox Lake and move on to the University of Illinois and then on to MIT to pursue a life in robotic engineering.
Of course, God had other things in mind and through my passion for history and, what I would later find out, ministry, I finally did leave that small town and moved to another, smaller town. But in-between I lived in a fairly large town (St. Louis, Missouri). That’s where I met my wife, so it did turn out that a big city would be in the plans at one point.
I’ve found that as much as I looked forward to leaving my small, home town when I was younger, I looked forward just as fondly to every visit I made back there. While my home was in various other places (White Cloud, Michigan, Mayville, WI, Upland, CA), I captured a little of feelings of home when I returned. What was especially nice was returning to that home with my wife and kids – I guess it’s sort of like having the best of both worlds.
Wherever I lived, I found myself listening to radio stations from near my hometown. Listening to their weather forecasts and traffic reports –while had no direct bearing on me where I was – it was comforting in a way because they were a part of the feeling of “home.”
Yet, with all these feelings of home –whether it is the hometown I escaped or the hometown I live in now – I’m not really home, am I? I am really a “stranger and alien.” Living out my life here while looking forward, with hope, to my home that even now Jesus is preparing for me.
Heaven is my home and I’m but a stranger here. I will be going home someday because Jesus died to take away my sin. His death and resurrection transform my time here away from home, giving me purpose and direction. But Jesus’ death and resurrection also give me hope of a better place that a one-time carpenter from Nazareth is building for me now.
Ironically – and this is a wonderful insight into how God was preparing me for this very moment in life – I made my way back to my “home town” 15 years after being ordained into the Pastoral Ministry. My first call was in a very small town in rural Michigan, then I moved to a small town in Wisconsin. Then to an affluent suburb of Los Angeles.
But five years ago, my family and I moved back to Lake County, Illinois just a few miles from my home town of Fox Lake.
Isn’t it amazing how God works?