At Home With God – John 14
I grew up in the Bible-Belt South. I remember Scripture references painted on barn walls, pasted on billboards, printed on bumper stickers. I can still see the embroidered verses that hung, framed, on the walls of my grandmother’s house.
When I read the Bible, it is filtered through so many memories.
Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
Reading these words, I see an image from my first children’s illustrated Bible. I see Jesus, with outstretched hand, ascending into heaven on a cushion of pink-tinted clouds.
Picture and words are so intertwined in my mind that it took me much longer than it should have to recognize the fault line in my memory.
Jesus does not speak of preparing a place for us as he floats into the sky. He says these words just before his arrest. He says them just before the cross.
As a child, I imagined Jesus as some sort of celestial carpenter, as if his earthly profession was the shadow of his current task. I imagined Jesus, hammer in hand, building mansions on golden streets.
It seemed so obvious to me back then. I lay in bed with a flashlight and my illustrated Bible and was sure of this: Jesus was making heaven ready.
When I was a child, home was an easy concept. Home was my bedroom on Jersey Street. Home was my father and mother, my two younger sisters and my baby brother. Home was the wooden playhouse in our backyard.
Heaven was an easy concept, too. Heaven was my next home. Like my current one, only better. With more gold and fewer bugs. More rainbows and less humidity.
Today, I am a grown woman with children of my own, and home is no longer so easy. No longer so obvious. I have played house in dorm rooms and apartments. I have traveled. I have wandered. I have practiced real homemaking in condominiums and one suburban ranch, and I have recently come home to a farmhouse I hope I never leave.
I think a great deal about homesickness and homecoming. Is the first simply our lot in this life? Is the second only given after death?
In John 14, Jesus says this: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
My very own heavenly mansion on a golden street no longer seems like such a prize.
I know now that a life lived alone in a warren of empty rooms is probably the opposite of God’s intentions for us. Surely, the kingdom of heaven looks more like everyone gathered together around a great table, feasting.
If I am honest, the kingdom of heaven probably looks, at least a little bit, like my life right now.
It looks like me and my husband sitting at the table with our four children every night (perhaps minus the complaints about vegetables).
It looks like Sunday mornings when someone places the bread in my hands, looks me in the eye, and says the body of Christ, broken for you.
It looks like the meal I shared with my three dearest friends on Saturday night. We’d each driven hundreds of miles to see each other face to face and raise forks of spaghetti and marinara. We said goodbye shortly after, and I am not sure what I feel this crazy Monday morning, but Saturday night? I know I felt utterly, completely at home.
Because Christ was broken for us, Christ is with us now. And we are home. We have arrived, and we are, always, arriving. Every day is a homecoming.
The work of preparation Jesus spoke of, the great work that would prepare our home, has been accomplished. It was accomplished on the cross. The words “It is finished” reach so much farther than I ever realized. So high. So deep. So far. So wide. It is finished, and we are reconciled, and there is nothing to stop us from living at home with God.
“Abide in my love,” Jesus says in the very next chapter of John (John 15:9).
Jesus has made that possible. His death was the seed and his resurrection the shoot of a great vine. Planted two thousand years ago, that vine has grown larger and larger. It yet grows, like a powerful story that has not reached its conclusion. But we do have a home. A real home. A true home.
Our home is Love.
image by permission – Kelli Campbell
Christie Purifoy earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago. She recently traded reading lists and classrooms for a vegetable garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. Now she writes stories at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement.
The chickens move fast and the baby crawls faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she shares it at ChristiePurifoy.com.