This is the fifth reflection in the Missio Lent series. Read the rest here.
Last month my husband turned 45, and for his birthday I gave him a plane ticket to Minneapolis, which is an unusual gift for a birthday in January—that is, a trip to a climate of subzero temperatures. But my husband’s twin brother and some of his dear friends, his old college roommates, live there, so off he went. For him, in some ways, it was a little taste of “home.”
My husband is my best friend; he says the same of me. But in the nearly twenty years we have known each other, he has not found the kind of friendships outside of our marriage that he had in college with his brother and their roommates. Though we have invested in our church in every city in which we have lived, faithfully participated in small groups, and regularly host people in our home with great enjoyment, we have struggled to recover the deep kind of friendships that we forged in college. My husband has felt this sense of unfulfilled longing more acutely.
We long for a circle of friends that really know us and our history, but have often felt as though we still lack depth in this area. I don’t feel any sense of blame about this reality, nor do we blame others. Everyone who meets my husband finds him to be kind, gentle, intelligent, and full of integrity. But he like many others is busy with professional obligations, and with being a husband and father. Life does not easily allow for the energy and time it takes to forge deep connections with friends. The dearth of deep friendships in his life—of really being known—is not for lack of effort or desire or even attractiveness on his part. Life goes quickly; the longing persists.
“Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-31 (NRSV)
Before he left on his trip north, I said to him, “You are now 45, and if we are fortunate, we have 45 more years. But at this halfway point in life, if we have not found the community that we long for, and if you have in Minneapolis those kinds of deep seeded, committed friendships, why don’t we move there in search of home?”
“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’” John 14:23
Minneapolis isn’t really home; neither of us has ever lived there for very long, although my husband studied in Minnesota and worked in Minneapolis briefly after college, and he has family and close friends there. Yet, after living in various places across the United States and around the world, he calls Minnesota “home.” There is an abiding attraction, comfort and familiarity with the place and its people that we have not found anywhere else. We have spent our years thus far pursuing career, identity, and work. We’ve spent years in pursuit of what our culture says is important. But maybe now, at the midpoint of life, it’s time to move home, to a place where we are already known, to embrace being loved, and to work in order to live among those who give that level of dimension and color to our days. Is it time to move “home?”
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” 2 Corinthians 5:1
Interestingly, the day after I proposed this idea to my husband, I happened upon a podcast from The Rabbit Room of an interview with Jenny Youngman, a singer/songwriter based in Nashville. In the podcast Youngman discusses the process of writing and recording her second record, “The Girl With Good Intentions.” In the interview Jenny shared that her brother and sister-in-law moved to Nashville from Pennsylvania for the purpose of intentionally raising their children together in community with family.
It felt like a small grace to have unexpectedly heard this particular podcast after sensing what felt like the Holy Spirit’s prompting that we move to Minneapolis. But if we moved from here to there, would we be any different? In Atlanta or Minneapolis, Knoxville or Lancaster, Thomasville or Alexandria, in all the places where our extended family dwells, we remain the people that we are. “Moving somewhere” doesn’t change that.
It is the season of Lent, and I am wondering about home. I invite you to do it too. Are we moving toward home, to our heavenly home with God, to the home that is found when we dwell with the Holy Spirit, to the true home for which we persistently long?
This liturgical season of Lent invites us to slow down and notice the Holy Spirit dwelling here, creating a home within us. Lent is a good season to allow God to make his home within us more intentionally, to be present with him wherever we are. Is it possible that where we physically live on this earth can help us find that God-oriented path? Does physically moving toward relationship, being known, committing to building community align us more closely with God, or do those things actually serve as obstacles, tethers to this life?
What might be the spiritual equivalent of moving home? If our moving home to-do list involves updating LinkedIn, selling the house, finding new jobs, purging the attic and preparing the kids, what would a Lenten “moving home” list entail? How do we spiritually move toward home, toward God, toward being known more fully by God and by others? How do we move away from being a stranger, away from the longing we try to satisfy through earthly solutions, away from loneliness?
To truly move toward home is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Some followed Him, some reviled Him (especially those in His hometown!), many misunderstood Him, a few befriended Him.
When we talk about vocation and pursuing our callings, more often than not we envision it as leaving home. In our desire to follow God’s purpose for our lives, we often seem to think that such callings are found away from our families of origin and the homesteads of our childhood. We celebrate leaving home and moving away from those who “knew us when,” who know who we once were, and who we’ve become, and who we’re becoming still. But it seems we often try to go-it-alone, “freed” from the bonds of our formative relationships, driven by careers and less by relationships and history. I wonder how much we’re missing out on because we’ve made an idol out of self-sacrifice and isolation.
I don’t know if moving to Minneapolis is the key that will unlock that door into deeper relationships, to a more secure sense of belonging, or will satisfy our hunger for home. But this Lent, I’m asking myself and my family more about what “moving home” might mean for us as a couple and as a family.
May God do immeasurably more in you this Lent than you can imagine as you move toward dependency upon Him and as you seek to dwell richly—to be at home—in the Lord.
Megan Johnson, like so many of us, is learning to juggle the many identities of this earthly life including wife, mother, pastor and friend. She lives in Atlanta, grew up in Durham, but her family is originally from Ohio.