In my corner of the world, “home” is a word that can be loaded with interesting connotations. Over the past few months, we’ve travelled from one “home” to the next. Before our journey across the ocean, we were looking forward to going “home” to visit friends and family… and, by the end of two months, we were ready to come “home” to Perth.
Part of the problem is that the concept of “home” doesn’t have to do with simply having a roof over our heads. When we think of home we think of people, foods, smells, activities… there are memories attached to what a “home” really is. When I imagine the concept of home, my mind swirls between images from my childhood in Portland, a time of spiritual growth in Boise, our “family” of 400 on our base here in Perth, and wonderful hospitality in nations all over the world that led me to feel right at home.
Adding to the complexity is the idea that we, as people who follow Jesus, are only living in a temporary home here on earth. I have always loved the way this is referenced in Hebrews 11:13-14, which describes the heroes of the faith as strangers and exiles on the earth, “seeking a homeland” of their own. This verse has often encouraged me to look towards the ever-coming kingdom of heaven as my true home.
A few months ago, however, God revealed to me that I was using ideas presented in this verse to keep myself at a distance from the very place He had asked me to call “home.” He showed me that I hadn’t truly, deep in my heart, made Perth my home.
I was sharing my thoughts with Chris one afternoon and he was reminded of this verse:
“Build homes, and plan to stay.” (Jeremiah 29:5)
The impact of this verse is incredible when you realise its context. It’s something that God spoke to the Israelites as they were being taken into exile. Picture this in your mind – God had led His people out of 400 years of slavery and into a beautiful land to call their own. Because of their disobedience, they were given into to the hands of another nation, led away to exile. Their loving God promised to return them back to their land in seventy years time. But first – He instructed the people to make home out of an unfamiliar, temporary place.
Just like the individuals mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11, the Israelites were exiles – and yet God still wanted them to settle down. Just after the first part of this verse in Jeremiah, He tells them to plant gardens and eat the produce, get married, have children, and pray for the very city that has taken them captive. These are physical and spiritual acts of investment and commitment.
While my time in Australia is far from a time of exile, it is an unfamiliar and temporary place. Living here has come with challenges. And although I don’t plan to be here for the next 70 years, God still desires that I invest in and commit to this city.
I often think about what made my time in Boise so special. I only lived in Idaho for two years, and yet my memories there are some of my very best. I made wonderful friends, explored backroads and hiking trails, discovered the best coffee spots and thrift shops. The key was that I was “planning to stay.” I had no timeframe in mind when I moved. If I didn’t know better, I could have been there forever. And I definitely lived like that. The lifelong friendships came from a lifelong type of investment in relationships. I explored because I took ownership – I wanted to get to know every nook and cranny of MY city.
Why am I writing this to you?
First of all, I want to be open. I want to share with you that moving to another nation and travelling the world is incredible, but can certainly be difficult. I want to use this public outlet to put my stake in the ground and say, “from now on, I’ll make sure things are different.” I promise that I won’t treat Perth as “temporary” anymore. I will look at Jesus face-to-face, peering into the reflection in His eyes to see this city in a new light. I will ask Him to help me fall in love with this unfamiliar, temporary place. I might be sadder to leave when that time comes, but I have a feeling that the benefits will outweigh the hardships.
I’m also sharing this to encourage you. I don’t know where you’re at in life – physically, or emotionally – but I know that some seasons can be hard. My encouragement to you is to look closer than the future. Don’t look to “when things will be different” or “when I have more money” or “when I move there.” Sit down where you are. Have a cup of coffee. Ask God for a new perspective on your surroundings. I’m learning this, too. Let’s walk through it together.
A song I’ve played on repeat lately is Lights Shine Bright by TobyMac. One of my favourite lines says, “for now, this rental’s our home.” While the temporary aspect of a rental is what I first resonated with, it got me thinking. How have I treated every rental I’ve lived in? I’ve gone to such lengths to make our tiny studio apartment here in Perth “home” that I’ve tried every way imaginable to put up artwork without nailing into the walls. I haven’t just “made do” with minimal furniture, but made every effort to bring warmth and life with decoration and personality.
It should be this way with my “rental home” of Perth, Australia, too. I’m excited to see what life and personality I can bring to an unfamiliar, temporary city.