New knob. New door. New floors. New walls.
New. It was all new.
Jet lag was already setting in and I was in an overwhelming fog. Not 12 hours earlier, I had been in the great Pacific Northwest (PNW), that cozy little corner of the US nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountain Range. It is green, so very green—a luscious, healthy and powerful green that’s everywhere! There are two things to thank for this: trees and rain. The trees grow so tall and plentiful that they seem to grab onto the sky and keep it from floating away as they grip the earth with their roots. The rain provides the ammunition for mighty rivers, playful streams, picturesque lakes, and breathtaking waterfalls. Ahhh… the PNW. I feel at home just thinking about it.
For all of my 36 years, I resided in that soggy, gorgeous paradise. Of those years, I spent the last eight in the house where my husband and I started our family. The door knob was round in distressed chrome. The door was a deep, rich red, which perfectly popped against our single-story soft yellow rancher. The floors were carpeted in an awful brown that I never intended to stop hating. The walls were colorful, vibrant, diverse, and just right. That house, with all of its flaws and features, was my home. My home.
But I’m not there anymore. Now, my feet are situated on the stoop of a tall, bleak, brick building, in the middle of a city called Eindhoven, in a little-known country called the Netherlands. You could call it Holland but, technically, you’d be wrong. And if you Google it, you’ll probably notice it is full of windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, and dikes. Yup, that’s the Netherlands in a nutshell. This ingenious country has actually increased its land mass by engineering some of the most effective dikes in the world! The tiny nation is a little less tiny today, because the Dutch just push the ocean out. Yes, the Dutch push the ocean away in order to acquire more land. This practice also contributes to the sandy nature of the place. Sure, there’s grass, trees, flowers and all, but they’re not the same. Everything is gritty. Even the green is different. It’s all so… sandy! Did I mention I’m really not fond of sand? Well, I’m not. Those grainy little specks get everywhere. Sigh.
One thing is clear: this doesn’t feel like home. My happy place is 10.5 hours away via a direct flight from AMS to PDX. Part of me just wants to be homesick. Of course I know I have to allow time for processing and mourning. That is normal, healthy, mandatory. But as my days here accumulate, I have also come to realize that all the warm fuzzy feelings I associate with the PNW are the byproduct of a myth I created. This myth led me to believe something that turned out to be false—that the PNW was my home.
It started with some soul searching. I began to ask, Where is home? What is home? Initially, I answered that home was my family: the people who filled those old walls with joy, pride, exhaustion, selfishness, laughter, anger, and above all… love. But those people traveled with me to these new walls. No, I needed to dig deeper. In doing so, I realized that “home” was simply an anchor of preferences. It was all things comfortable, known, trusted, and expected. And I felt none of those things in this gritty place. Like it or not, I found myself at the precipice of all things unfamiliar in the Netherlands. My heart kept me frozen on that sandy stoop, just staring at that new knob. Thankfully, my soul wouldn’t allow me to stand outside forever. I had to enter. I had to confront all the newness that was flooding my life.
Even though nothing felt like home, and even though I didn’t know it yet, the Netherlands was a good place to be both physically and spiritually. I remembered that in life’s raw and vulnerable moments, God is there, too. As I let my Creator settle my mind and emotions, I realized I had to make a choice regarding how I wanted to exist. Did I really want to sabotage my ability to be at home in this new location? No. And that’s when a little lightbulb began to flicker. The Holy Spirit took my hand and beckoned me to venture into a new perspective found in John 14-17.
In these chapters, we read the account of Jesus at the Passover meal with His closest followers. Later, this meal would be known as the Last Supper, but in those moments, that group of guys had no idea it was going to be the last of anything. This is where we find Jesus explaining the complex things that were about to unfold, trying to ease the group into some very unfamiliar territory. Jesus was going away. Physically, it was time for Him to depart. But how could He get them to understand that even though He was being tangibly relocated, He wasn’t really leaving them? He needed to redefine where their homes were.
In John 14:1-4 (MSG), Jesus tells them, “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live.” Then, in John 15:4 (MSG), He tells them, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” Again, in verses 9-10 He tries to comfort them by saying:
“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.”
These guys traveled a lot, so I doubt that confusing a house as their real home was their biggest struggle. But I’m sure, just like me, they had anchors of preferences, too. Their beloved teacher and friend was the manifestation of all thing comfortable, known, and trusted, and His leadership was what they relied upon. I’m going to take a wild guess and say they all would have preferred Him to stay. I imagine the brakes were screeching to a halt in the disciples’ brains. Perhaps they were thinking, “Jesus, weren’t you just welcomed with that parade of palm branches? How can you go away now?” or “Wait, no! We’re just getting into a groove! Let’s not try anything new just yet, mkay?” As I pondered this, in my heart I realized I was making similar pleas. I am making similar pleas. For the disciples, communing on Earth with God the Son was no longer an option regardless of how much they wanted Him to stay. For me, returning to the familiar setting of the PNW is not an option regardless of how much I wish it could be so.
My epiphany came when I read how Jesus summed it all up in John 17:16 (ESV) as he prayed,
“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
At these words, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “You are not of the PNW, just as I am not of the PNW.” I had been missing God’s bigger picture: none of this is, nor was, my real home.
So, after two months of living in this new house, with its new walls, new floors, new door, and new knob, do I feel like it’s home? No, not fully. And that’s ok. I live in a paradox. I am, simultaneously, never home and always home. Regardless whether I’m in Eindhoven or the PNW, neither will satisfy my soul like living eternally with my Father. At the same time, everywhere is home when the Lord resides in my heart. As my spirit continues to grow, my earthy global positioning becomes less and less pertinent, while my soul becomes more and more at peace as I settle into this new perspective. In this move and mind shift, God is rooting me by uprooting me. He is grounding me by transplanting me. Through it all, I’m holding tight to what He is teaching me about where my real home is: in my precious Savior.
As we start a new year, I pray we will find our roots in a new perspective. I pray God will draw us closer as we dwell on the things that are not of this world. After all, it isn’t our real home.
Small Seed Copy Editor: Megan Grant
Faith Perspectives Editor: Jackie Shafer
Amy is a Christ follower, a free spirit, a wife, a mother, sarcastic, deep, and a recovering homeschool teacher. Her husband's job brought their family of 4, plus beloved dog, to the Netherlands in September of 2018. In order to learn the language, the kids ages 9 and 10 are in public school for the first time. No longer a homeschooling mom, Amy is finding new purpose (and the time) to reflect, write, and lift others up
Image by Minda Price.