The sloping driveway outside our apartment always caused us to slow down and take it at an angle, in order to avoid scraping the underneath of our car when entering or leaving. Our son grew so accustomed to that familiar bump that when he began to talk, he would often say, “Home!” in his little baby voice every time we returned to that bump at the beginning of the driveway. He knew we were coming back to his special place: home.
But this summer, when he was about eighteen months old, we followed God’s leading to a new ministry in a completely different state. Our whole lives were changing, and I worried about how he would handle it. Would he understand that we were moving to a new home? Would he be confused when days and weeks passed and we didn’t come back? Would he be afraid to sleep in a different place, meet new people, try a new church nursery? He was a happy, easygoing little boy and I hoped he would navigate the changes more easily than I. As an adult who knew the deeper ramifications of the move, and who had spent nearly my whole life in the place we had left, I was unsure of how the uprooting would affect us. Then, we couldn’t find a house right away and we put our belongings in storage. We moved in with relatives who graciously offered us their house, and work for my husband, while we looked for a home in the nearby area. As the newness wore off, it felt sometimes like we were stuck in the in between, unable to feel at home because we were still displaced.
I battled with fear, frustration, and impatience during those first few weeks, wondering if the Israelites had felt the same way during their forty year wait in the wilderness that had been caused by the sin of their parents. Like them, I had arrived at the destination God had led me to, but couldn’t make it home yet for reasons that weren’t in my control. I had to wait on his timing and provision even though it didn’t make sense to me yet. I felt like an Israelite standing at the edge of the Promised Land, looking out over the abundance God had promised, yet unable to step foot into the place that I knew was meant to be my home.
But as the weeks turned into months, I watched my son grow and learned from him as he made his toddler self right at home. We had some struggles, to be sure, but his resiliency amazed me. Through trial and error we found a new routine, and he seemed to view everything as a fun adventure. When I’d be standing in the middle of the grocery store, overwhelmed and unable to make a decision or find something specific, he’d discover the live lobster tank and act as if I’d taken him to a state-of-the-art aquarium. When I was trying to adjust to cooking in someone else’s kitchen without my trusty Kitchenaid and other beloved tools, he was simply excited to eat grapes and goldfish crackers. When I had a bad day of weariness and depression, he would sit contentedly next to me on the couch to watch Puffin Rock.
Perhaps I didn’t need to enter the “promised land” of a home of our own in order to be at home in the place I was inhabiting right here, right now. I began to realize that my son’s idea of home wasn’t tied to a specific set of rooms or daily routine or menu of meals. While those things are part of what make up our idea of home, it didn’t throw him into a tailspin when those things changed because he still had the presence and love of us, his mama and daddy. He could be happy anywhere because he was secure knowing that we would take care of him no matter where we were. He didn’t have to worry about anything else.
How much more can we depend on God as our home, as our protector and provider? We are never separated from him and his love, no matter where we are, no matter our life circumstances (Romans 8). He knows our sitting down and our standing up, our travels and our rest…whether we live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, he will hold us and guide us (Psalm 139). I can be at peace because I am at home with God wherever I am.
The driveway of our temporary home is gravel instead of pavement like our previous driveway, long instead of short, off a private road instead of in the middle of town. But the other day as we drove back from church, we turned into the driveway and my son’s little voice piped up from the backseat, saying sleepily, “Home.”
And I knew that we were.
Kristi Clark is a young wife and mother with a passion for stories and creating beauty out of the mess of everyday life. She writes about her family’s journey of making home in Maine at www.pineandtidemaine.com (coming soon!), and her thoughts and creative work can also be found on instagram at @pine_and_tide.