"Home." There are few words that evoke in me the kind of passion carried in this word. I realize that not everyone gets warm fuzzies when that word is spoken, but isn’t there a deep longing in every heart for the warmth and safety of a place called home? 

Our Creator, who knows of this longing , has promised us through the ancient prophet Isaiah: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isa. 32:18, NIV). 

Not long after we moved to Wenatchee, Washington, my family and I joined some friends at the nearby Waterville fair for a Mark Schultz concert. One of his songs, “When You Come Home,” really spoke to me. In the chorus Mark’s mother is speaking these reassuring words: 

When you come home
No matter how far
Run through the door and into my arms
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

It was the fall of 1955, and an eager 4-year-old peered over the dashboard of a flatbed truck as it droned westward through the hills of central Massachusetts. The truck was loaded with all the earthly belongings claimed by his mother and three brothers. Bernie, a college student and friend of the family, was performing a good deed. After all, this family, whose goods he was transporting , consisted of a single mother with limited means and her four young boys. 

I was that 4-year-old perched high enough on the seat to enable me to see through the windshield of the truck that was moving us from South Lancaster to South Athol, Massachusetts, some 40 miles to the west. My mother, Marian, had searched and located a home that she knew would be a suitable place to raise her growing boys. 

A Place Called Home

Bernie had barely set the emergency brake before I bounced off the running board and raced to the front door. We each were eager to explore our new home in the country. It seemed so much bigger and nicer than the Quonset hut we had left behind. Mother’s prayer had been very specific. Dear Lord, help me find an affordable home that will have enough space for a garden. Let it be close to a place where we can go swimming.” She had grown up near the Columbia River in White Salmon, Washington, and loved to swim. “And, Lord,” she continued, “let it be close to an Adventist school where my boys can attend and learn about You from the Bible.” She believed beyond a shadow of doubt that the Lord led her to the Burnham house nestled in the village of South Athol, since it filled every expressed desire in her prayer. It turned out to be a great place for me and my three brothers, Tim, Wes, and Mark, to be raised. 

The address was 5568 South Athol Road, the place I would call home through childhood and into my adult years. I would swim in a nearby lake, skip rocks in the pond, attend the church school three miles away, and do my part to help keep the weeds under control in the garden. And it would be the place Mother lived for 62 years until she went to her rest at the age of 94. 

Judy and I met in the fall of 1974 while attending Atlantic Union College in South Lancaster. She grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. Although our environments were quite different, we had both enjoyed the stability and security of home. She had lived at 45 Cleveland Street for about as long as she could remember, just as I had lived at 5568 South Athol Road. 

The two-story home where Judy and her sister Jackie grew up had been the family home since she was two years old. For more than four decades it was home for her parents, Ron and Carolyn, until they moved into their lake house in Maine in the late 1990s.

Beginnings

Judy and I married in 1976 and made our first home at 25 Wright Street, a mile or so from New England Memorial Hospital, where we were employed. 

Since then, because of my calling as a minister, the road to “a place called home” has taken some twists and turns. “Home” has become somewhat of an elusive term for me and our family. Judy and our three children, Adam, Lindsey, and Ronilea, share that same sense of ambiguity. Let me suggest some reasons for that. 

With a few pieces of furniture from our respective homes, some donations from friends, and redecorating help from Judy’s dad, we were able to “set up house.” Judy had an ability to turn a simple abode into an inviting place. She would do just that many times over the years that followed. Our vows had included “for better or for worse,” but little did we know how soon and often we would need to endure the stress of a move. 

Our landlords, who lived directly below us, repackaged our trash when they thought we were using too many bags, and entered our apartment when we were away without asking for our permission. There were other similar intrusions on our privacy. It was not a “there’s no place like home” experience for a newlywed couple, and a move became necessary within a very short time. In terms of longevity, we were off to a less-than-ideal start. 

In the years that followed we would experience the challenges of being part of a ministry that is, by design, itinerant. Long-term housing was not always readily available in our new area, so something temporary would have to do. These were times of joyful anticipation waiting to see what God had in store for us, but also times of emotional and physical stress. To find housing, sign the kids up in a new school, transfer checking accounts, and search for a new medical team, took patience. I admire Judy for the way she navigated through these stressors with strength and dignity. 

In 1998 we were living in Melrose. We loved the people and our ministry at Greater Boston Academy, but as a family we were ready for a new adventure. When I received an invitation to serve as youth and family pastor in Wenatchee, Washington, we went for it! 

A New Adventure

After our move to the Northwest, our family would make occasional trips back “home” to the East Coast. After a few years, however, we noticed that we would say, “We are going home,” not when headed east, but when we headed west. We would laugh about it, since for a while we didn’t know where home was or in which direction! Thus, the elusiveness of “home.” 

In conversation with our teenage son one day, Judy asked, “What place do you think of as home?” He quickly responded, “Home is wherever you and Dad are.” We liked his answer. Isn’t home the place where we can be with those we love? Jesus clearly longs for us to be home with Him. 

“And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3, NIV). 

Our nomadic journey, though challenging, has resulted in some major blessings. For example, wherever we have pitched our tent, we have discovered many amazing people. They are prayer warriors, confidants, fellow adventurers. They are beautiful, and they are broken people like us, and are more treasured than they know. If we had put down deeper roots and raised our children in one place, I suppose there would have been some benefits, but I can’t imagine life without the many truly remarkable people we now call friends. 

We have also been blessed with experiencing the beauty and diversity in the cultures and areas we have seen. In Boston we lived history while walking the Freedom Trail. On the rocky shores of Cliff Island, Maine, we felt the salt water spray in our faces. In the Pacific Northwest we cruised the Strait of San Juan de Fuca sighting whales, while white-capped peaks loomed in the distant Olympic Mountains. From our home in northern Idaho we could view moose, deer, bear, and other wildlife. These adventures were possible only because we were willing to move out of our comfort zone. 

The ultimate blessing that has come from the many transitions we have made as a family is found in this reality: As a pastoral family, we have been reminded often that this world is not our final home. Our home is in heaven. This thought is expressed in another song: 

My home is in heaven, just waiting for me,
And when I get there, how happy I’ll be!
My home is in heaven, where the rent is free,
For Jesus paid it, on Calvary! 

Yearning for Our Real Home

I can relate to Abraham of old, who had to “pull up stakes” often since the life of a shepherd was also itinerant. Moving his family from place to place seeking water and grazing lands for flocks and herds was not an easy life. 

“By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9, 10). 

Deep in Abraham’s heart was a longing to exchange the temporary dwelling of a nomadic shepherd for a permanent home. 

When Jesus comes and it’s time to go home, if we have reminded ourselves all along that our earthly home is just temporary, then it won’t be difficult at all to “pull up stakes.” 

Does the chaos and conflict that is breaking out all over the earth make your heart ache and give you more of a longing to be with God? The Bible is filled with the hope that we will experience that reality. 

“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’ ” (Rev. 21:3, ESV). 

The Greek word meta, which is translated “with” or “among,” is used three times in the above passage, which I think emphasizes how much God longs to be with us. 

The ultimate reason for wanting to go home to heaven is that Jesus Himself will be there. 

In the final words of Schultz’s song, I see our heavenly Parent waiting to welcome us home. 

When you come home
No matter how far
Run through the door and into My arms
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong
And I will be there, when you come home.