my home

My Home In Kathleen, Florida from 1968 to 1983

Bill Bryson in his book Home Town Reunion,  says there are three things that will never happen; you’ll never be able to pay the debt you owe, you’ll never get a waiter to see you until he or she wants too, and you’ll never be able to go home again. In some regards he’s right about all three, but I find myself puzzling over going home again. Every time I would visit my parents in Florida, I always had this sense that I was going home. After all, that’s where I grew up and became who I am. That’s where I played and went to school, where I got my first job and met my lovely wife. It’s where I learned to be a Christian and was baptized, where my parents and my Grandparents lived, worshipped and planted their roots.

My parents and I lived in a modest home in the rural community called Kathleen, just 10 miles north of Lakeland. My father’s parents lived next door and this it seemed for a time would always be home.  There were a lot of great memories with that home.  I had plenty of room to ride motorcycles, play football and baseball.  Kid’s from the neighborhood would all come over and we would get a baseball or football game up.  I camped outside in the yard with my friends, threw the Frisbee with mom and dad, had picnics with brethren from church in that yard and yes every Saturday morning I had to mow all that grass. I was blessed to have many wonderful years in that which I called home for some 16 years. Recently, I drove by the home and stopped across the street to reminisce. Home, was gone! Since I left some 30 years ago, Kathleen has grown 10 times since. The once slow two lane road has now given way to a four lane congested highway.  The 80 acres of orange grove across the road from us is now all gone, replaced with hundreds of homes.  The farm and pasture land behind us, gone, replaced with hundreds of homes. The house I grew up in, gone, replaced with a four lane road.  The memories are still fresh in my mind, the place where I had once lived was still there, but the essence of home, the house with it’s sounds and smells, the placement of furniture, the feel of the carpet in my room and the bed where I slept, the images of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa sitting in the living room and watching man first set foot on the moon, the sound of mom calling us for dinner, or dad coming home early enough to throw the baseball or shoot baskets with me, that home was forever gone. Yep, you can never go home again!

Abraham must have felt that way at times.  In his old age he sent his servant back to his homeland to procure a wife for Issac, Gen 24:4   go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” Even though he had just bought land and buried Sarah in the cave of Machpelah, and that God had promised him this would be his land, home, would forever be a place that he couldn’t or his children couldn’t return too. Gen 24:6-7  Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there.   The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.

Jacob couldn’t go back home either. When, at the end of his life, he somewhat longed for it Gen 48:7  As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” His last 17 years would be spent in Egypt. Home for Jacob was where he buried Rachel. You may feel great sympathy for Leah and her unfortunate circumstance but Jacob’s true love was Rachel and the above verse rings with sadness and a fore longing for a time and place that he called home but could not return.

It appears that the bible is full of stories that hit home (no pun intended) the fact that God’s children are wanders and that home is elusive.  Moses home had two major changes, from Egypt to Midian, then wherever they stopped to set up a tent in the wilderness.  David lived in his father’s house near Bethlehem for awhile then he lived in the wilderness, then he lived in the land of the Philistines, then he lived in the Negev and the wilderness again.  Even when he was King, his residence changed from Hebron to Jerusalem, to across the Jordan river, and back to Jerusalem again. Where or what did David consider home? Most of the prophets wandered from city to city never really settling down to a place called home. Ezekiel longed for a far away home while in exile in Babylon.  Daniel everyday went into his room, opened his window towards Jerusalem to the west, and prayed to God.  Do you think in the 70 years he spent in Babylon that he may have prayed once or twice, “God could I go home?”

Even our Lord and Savior had a place that was called home. For some 27 or 28 years Jesus grew up on the outskirts of what was once the nation of Israel, a small and somewhat beguiled and rejected place called Nazareth.(see John 1:46)  He returned there one day after he had moved away to Capernaum (Matt.4:13) and entered the Synagogue to teach his fellow Nazarenes. He taught a lesson about acceptance and God’s favor towards those not Israelites’. He even boldly predicted their next move Luk 4:24  And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. Shortly thereafter his hometown folks carried Him to the cliff there in Nazareth and started to throw him over. The truth has that effect on some people, even in your old hometown. Yep! You really can’t go home again, it’s never ever going to be the same.

Of course home is really never a constant reliable place that will forever stay the same.  It changes as much as we change. Home for me is of course here, in sweet home Alabama. It’s where I choose to come and live and marry my wife. It’s where I witnessed my kids grow up and play and go to school and become fine young adults. It’s where a whole new set of memories and images have been etched into a different part of my being. In time this too may very well change, sad as that may be, but one never really knows where home will be tomorrow. And so God’s word truthfully demonstrates to us all, that home, is really nowhere to be found hear on this earth, in this plane of existence. Our true home is in heaven. That’s home. Abraham spent 75 years living in what was considered his earthly home (Ur of the Chaldees) but he truly understood where his real home was at, Heb 11:8-10  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.   By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.   

There are in some places and over the course of human history been that which could be considered homes. On our trip to England a few  years ago, we saw many such places. Castles built centuries before and in some extreme circumstances still occupied by the descendants of those far away families. But even in “merry ole England” these are rare and hard to come by. Prehaps your blessed enough to live on a home that has been in your family for many generations. The truth is that rather you have a place you can truly call home or not, the real homeland waits.

Jesus tells us of such a home in John 14:1-3  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?   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.

 Paul stated it this way2Cor. 5:1 and 8   For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2Co 5:8  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

We can call this place home or that place home. We can visit our old home, if it’s still there,  and relieve the past. We can make new homes with new memories to relieve over and over again. But let us always remember and frame our lives around this simple and everlasting truth: home is not here! It awaits for us over there, and that’s a home I can go back too.

Darryl Fuller