heaven

The Places We Call Home


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Space

When you’re relaxed and at peace, when things are sweet between you and God, (currently not just fundamentally), you tend to notice things. This is because the spaces that you need in order to hear, and the discipline that you need in order to listen, are too-often rammed with the traffic fumes of anxiety and fear, idleness and unbelief.

I was with Mairi walking through a small Scottish village on the Eastern coast of the UK a few hours before Christmas last year, passing through plumes of our own breath and treading the seasonal crispness under foot. It had been a stressful end to a stressful year and we were easing in to a couple of weeks away from the front line.

Winding up the steep ascent from the harbour-side, past the proudly-arranged flower ensembles and all the little nooks and crannies that people call home, we picked up pace at the road’s plateau, slightly breathless. Strolling past the recently-rendered council homes and the original village buildings holding a story or two, it was then that I noticed the recent development of new houses. They looked like tiny living spaces, like a slightly-larger version of a model village! Seemingly, developers had squeezed as many two-by-twos as they could into the Aberdeenshire field.

But these weren’t houses, were they? They were homes – you know, the little nooks and crannies that people call home. It’s just that these were recently-finished homes, incubating their early memories with a kind of infant history.

A Place For Us

At the top of the hill, in our hand-in-hand moment of reprieve together from the turbulence of life, I thought back to Jesus’ words in John 14 where He promises to go and prepare a place for us. Jesus spoke these words to His closest friends, His family, who were distressed and confused, worried at the thought of Jesus leaving them. A concentrated sense of homesickness – one of the strongest of human emotions we can experience at any stage of life – hangs over the text as something like a shadow of the Israelite exile.

Do you miss Jesus? Are you homesick? If you love Him, you will be.

Have you ever wondered why it is that Jesus chose to comfort His friends by telling them that He was going to prepare a place for them?

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Who We Are

At this point, I can’t help but think of Bilbo Baggins: Bilbo met the Dwarves within the little nook and crannie that he called home, a Tolkeinian metaphor for perfect peace and safety and even foreshadowing a world beyond the Shire. But, as you know, Bilbo’s heavenly haven was about to be rudely interrupted.

Looking at this new housing development, I couldn’t help but think that, regardless of how small, claustrophobic and cooped-up these new houses looked, they were nonetheless the equivalent of Bilbo’s home for whoever lived in them – the little nooks and crannies that people call home. This is true for all of us, regardless of where on Earth we live and irrespective of what the home is like that we live in (Acts 17:26).

Though we’re made to live and thrive in community, our personal space and the privacy of our own quarters – our own four walls – points to a profoundly important aspect of what makes us human: to the extent that this would be the focus of one of Jesus’ main recorded discourses before He was crucified, as the neutraliser of fear, we are assured of a future place in which we will dwell in perfection, like (but also unlike), the little nooks and crannies (now) that people call home.

In Exile

Peter (1 Pet.2:11) addressed the early church with the language of sojourn:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Of course there is deep, covenantal joy in the journey (Psalm 32:1), but we should still be homesick for Jesus, shouldn’t we? Without being depressed or ineffective in the journey, we should still be longing for our eternal home.

Every human, hobbitesque longing in us for home is because of the way we have been created to dwell. When we are with God in the fullness of heaven, we will still function with purpose and mission (as opposed to the ridiculous notion of cloud-sitting and harp-playing), but we will also still have a place to call home – a place in which to ‘dwell well’.

Read John 14, again.

A New Jerusalem

The outer walls of the New Jerusalem will be 65 feet thick and made of the purest gold. Sixty five feet thick?! Pure gold?! (Check it out in Revelation 21:17). This gives us an indication about what the rooms that Jesus is preparing for us will actually be like.

If the outer walls of the city will be this thick and this opulent, imagine what the inner chambers of our places to call home will be like! Imagine how secure, how safe, how comfortable, how bespoke, how perfect in every conceivable way! If golden walls as thick as 65 feet will be the nature of the most external aspect of the city, imagine what the inner-most spaces and the finest details will be like! Not as some kind of Ikea show room all in white, but as something living – a literal metaphor – of reality itself but also a mirror reflection of our new inner condition of the perfect wholeness of our beings (Isa.26:3): we will be at rest in the complete, unadulterated presence of our Yahweh.

Call To Action

Next time you sit down in your armchair, remember that you’re called to serve God with all of your heart, that you have the prospect of an eternity of being perfectly at home and whole but that others do not. (Ephesians 2:12). Next time you close the door to your bedroom, remember that Jesus knows exactly what you need, what you like, what you will be blessed by, where you are on your own journey and what it will take to get you home.

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