Life does not happen like you think it will. False expectations we hold are crushed, and we learn what it really means to live. Sometimes we allow those crushed expectations to define us–sometimes we counter them with the truth of Christ and find a greater hope in the midst. Is that not what our lives are—the battle of truth against the sometimes brutal reality that we live? Whether it is being disappointed by marriage, children or lack there of, unfulfilling jobs, parents, sickness and death, finances, a dream crushed…we all live in this battle.
I grew up in the beautiful small town of Athens, Tennessee. My dad and mom served at a big baptist church there, and I grew up in front of and in the midst of many loving people–young and old. My dad was a phenomenal man and was probably the most respected person I know. I was so blessed that he was my earthly father. The church was our life–many afternoons and nights and weekends were spent there. In my parents, I had an example of what it meant to serve alongside one another in ministry. I would need hours to tell of people, memories, service, gifts, and warmth of my growing up years in Athens. I was truly blessed.
Never in a million years would I have expected to not feel at home there now. The trajectory of life there changed about 10 to 15 years ago. There was a brutal split in my home church. People who were once one began to disagree with one another. I was broken over it, and I did not live there. The body fled to many different churches and ministries began to weaken. The church has never fully healed. To me, it felt like a death of all that I once knew and treasured. It was a profound marker in my life. Many cling to what used to be, but that can easily become idolatry–being defined by crushed false expectations. I can count on my two hands the times I have been back there to worship in the last 10 years–my wedding, my dad’s funeral, other funerals, special occasions to honor my dad.
Everytime I enter, I cannot cling to once was because it is gone. Home is forever redefined. Nostalgia could be my middle name–but this crushed dream of going back there with children and seeing many familiar faces reminds me that my home is not on this earth.
In everyone, there is a sense of longing for roots and for the familiar of home. Whether it is that first semester on a college campus where we ache for anyone to know us or to see anything familiar or to walk into a place in life where everybody knows your name. There is something that helps us be at peace in familiar surroundings. I do not feel that peace in my hometown, but now I see that as gift because I long for my true home with Christ. Every hope (home) that I construct here is torn down as seasons change and life rolls on. I hate it when it happens, but it inevitably brings me new life in Christ and new hope in Him alone.
However, there are those brief moments on this earth that I feel the kiss of home. I experienced that a few weeks ago at my Aunt’s house at the beach.
Home brings some sense of peace, of memories, of smiles, of rest, and of letting the guard down. Home is not on this earth for those of us who are in Christ. However, Fripp Island gives me a brief glimpse into eternity. Deer were grazing near the beach and barely looked up as I walked past. Birds of every kind formed a choir line together on the beach singing to their Maker. Everything seemed to naturally point to the Maker–to fulfillment in Him. I thought of a David Wilcox lyric–“Prosperity will have its seasons and when it’s here it’s going by…”
From the age of 8, I have gone to the beach at Fripp with my mom and dad—when dad still had some playful youth of playing in the waves, digging in the sand, and riding bikes. The beach in front of my Aunt’s house is a marker of the years. In my youngest days, the growling ocean splashed us on the porch with fury. The beach began to mature and build up as I did into teenage angst. Then, year by year, more growth, more beach with maturing seagrass, plants, bushes, and dunes as I grew more mature as an adult. Now, at 35, I walk at least a quarter mile to reach the tide’s heighth. Like a marker of growth on a door, the beach reminds me of time gone by.
In my younger years, I used to loathe the lack of action on the beach. Now, I breathe in the air and so enjoy the silence of sometimes being the only person on the beach.
Reflecting back over the years, many friends have made the journey with me, but I do not think they feel the call of home here. Childhood friends, a senior trip for girls, college aged friends and boyfriends, a girl’s trip after my 21st birthday, spring breaks, summer vacations, my niece’s senior trip, my nephew and his friends on spring break, our honeymoon, trips when the nieces and nephews were tiny, labor day vacations with Greg, times with my Mom and Aunt, and even a trip by myself this winter to grieve and paint and rest. As an 8, 15 or 25 year old, I would have never conceived of the idea of going to the beach by myself to grieve barreness. In that time, I was so comforted to be in a familiar place with my loving and faithful Eternal Father’s arms around me.
On the beach a few weeks ago, I remembered many thoughts and many former selves that have been here. I took stock and measured growth. At 15, walking the beach scoping for guys–I had no idea. At 18, with my friends on the cusp of my “adult” adventure as I headed off the college, I was invigorated with energy and spunk. At 18 and 20 and 23, I prayed and sought direction on dating relationships. As I thought back to my “former” selves, there always seemed to be a part of me that lived life adventurously–definitely not looking for the easy way. The beach reminds me of my adventurous spirit. The older we get, the less we live in adventure. Perhaps, the less we step out in adventure as we have responsibilities. I am thankful for the adventure of Women’s Discipleship Concepts…the adventure of barrenness…the adventure of being on the journey with my husband for the sake of the gospel…the adventure of growing as an artist in this last year. Who knows what other markers I may measure as I go “home” the next time to Fripp Island–only the LORD.
As I am reminded of home, I am reminded of the Lord. He is our home for all generations as change comes like the ocean tide. I am thankful that He does not give me everything I demand or want because He has a much higher and bigger dream for my heart than feeling nostalgic with kids about my hometown. He has a much bigger adventure written than roots here and now. I trust Him, and I thank Him for brief glimpses of my home that is to come.