On Friday we got some great news, someone had put a serious offer in on our house in Wales. I got off the phone from telling the estate agent that we'd accept it, walked into the kitchen and burst into tears. Deep, body shaking, uncontrollable sorrow. This continued for sometime, during which I was joined in weeping by my wife and my children looked at me pondering what a strange creature they had been given as a father!
All through my working life we have lived in tied accommodation. That's housing that your employer provides and requires you to live in. First, whilst teaching at a boarding school and then as a Vicar in the Church of England. It's meant that we've lived in some lovely houses, free of charge.
Early on in our marriage, we thought that it would be wise to buy a house of our own, both to get on the property ladder and to have somewhere that was our home away from home. Both my parents and my wife's had holidayed in houses in Wales. So being people of little imagination, in 1993 we brought a house just outside Pwllheli on the Llyn peninsular.
It has been the place that we have holidayed for the last 24 years. The only constant home that our children have known as they have grown up (Bethan, our eldest has lived in 7 houses in her life time!). We have enjoyed glorious sunny days in the garden, countless cosy evenings round the wood burner and many wonderful bonfires (trying not to smoke out the neighbours).
The longest we ever managed to stay there consecutively is 5 weeks. But in a very real way I have realised that it is home. It is the place were I emotionally relax. The place where I focus on family a bit more as I should. The place that is constant in my memories of our children growing up. It's there in every year. A safe background to their ever changing lives.
I sort of knew it was home, but the depth of my emotional reaction surprised me. You could put it down to being Welsh! But I think that everyone is created to feel at home in a physical place.
When God made people he placed them in a garden (Genesis 2:8) . Eden was Adam and Eve's home. That was primarily because it was the place that they enjoyed relationship with God. But it was also because it was the God created place for them to enjoy his blessing. God had designed it as a physical place that was for them.
Therefore, when God punishes them, as he sends them out of his intimate presence in the garden, he is also sending them out of their natural home. We see the same pattern with Israel. God provides a beautiful land for them. When they reject him, he punished them by sending them into exile. Away from home. Which is why they (and Boney M!) sing Psalm 137:1
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
Zion is the temple mount. The place that God dwelt amongst them. It was the physical place that he gave them to be at home with him.
In the NT Christians are those longing to be at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8). Our home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and whilst living in this world we are exiles (1 Peter 1:1). However, our final destination is a physical place. A world renewed by God, through Christ, to be our perfect home once again. That is why we groan with the rest of creation longing for physical redemption:
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:22-23)
We look forward to the day when we shall enjoy resurrection bodies in a place where we shall know God's love perfectly and enjoy the love of people perfectly. This is a gift of God through his Son, Jesus Christ.
That's why we've sold our house. The Lord has moved us to a church where we have to buy a share in the property we live in. We don't resent that. Because there is nothing more important than telling people the good news of Jesus, so that they will one day go home to be with him.
In the end our sense of home in this life is only a taster of the final fulfilment of home with Christ. You might think Wales is a strange place to experience that. But I'll have to disagree with you!