I recently started drafting a post on the subject of “coming home.” It was appropriate, considering that’s the title of the new novella collection in which one of my stories appears with six others.
Each story takes place in a different location (Texas, West Virginia, an island in Lake Superior off the coast of Wisconsin, Indiana, Georgia, one of the Carolinas [sorry, Kimberli, but I don’t remember which one!]*, and Ohio) all with the unifying theme being tiny houses. I don’t usually write contemporary fiction, but it’s been fun working with my friends on this project, and I enjoyed writing the story, which I set in the community where Craig and I lived for 30 years.
*[Note: Kimberli just contacted me to say: “This is one of the few stories I’ve written that doesn’t take place in the Carolinas. Like Linda’s, mine is set in Texas, only North Central Texas where it’s hot and dry and the town has been suffering a long drought. That part was based on an actual event. It was so dry in the real town my fictional town is based on, they pleaded with people to pray for rain. In the story, they got it. In buckets.” Sorry I mis-remembered, Kimberli, and thanks for the correction!]
And now, back to our regularly-scheduled broadcast:
Another reason “coming home” is so appropriate is because we recently moved, and when I return to this place after being away, I don’t quite feel like I’m “home.” This kind of surprises me, because when we moved to Maryland in 2013, my husband and I both immediately felt like our new house was home. Why don’t I now? I’m not sure, but it’s different this time.
Here’s a portion of the post I started drafting earlier but never finished:
Coming Home is the title of the novella collection a group of us recently published. In a way, it’s also the theme of my contribution to the book, though it was someone else who came up with the title.
It’s also what I felt like this past Wednesday when I went back for visit to the area of New Philadelphia, OH. That’s where my husband and I lived for 30 years. All four of our kids grew up there, graduated from high school in the area, and were launched into the world from that home base.
When driving back to T-County this past week, the closer I got, the more I found myself anticipating my arrival there. I felt like I was going home.
I dropped off copies of the book at both the New Philadelphia and Dover public libraries. I also delivered several copies to Dayspring Christian Bookstore, where they are now available for sale. I went to Swiss Village Bulk Foods and Sugar Valley Meats in Sugarcreek. I had lunch at my cousin’s house. The whole time, I drove around with a smile on my face.
I don’t ever expect to live there again, but it sure is nice to visit.
I got that far and then couldn’t think what else to say, so I put it aside. Until now.
This morning as I read in the Gospel of John, I got to the first verse in chapter 14 and pulled up short.
I’ll share that with you in a minute, but first, let me fill you in on something that happens in my novella. The main character has been going through a very difficult time. Her marriage has fallen apart, she’s moved out of her long-time home, she’s left her career, and is trying to start over in the community where she lived when she was a young girl. Subconsciously, I suppose, she hopes to recapture something of the hope and happiness of her youth. But she can’t find it, because those days are gone. She prays, but can’t seem to feel the connection with God she once did. She feels lonely and adrift.
At one point in the story, she’s out walking the dog after dark and gets a little scare. She looks toward her tiny house, and the lights beckon to her to come back to safety. As she and the dog move into the protective glow of the house’s deck light, she asks herself, “Stepping into the light of God can’t be as simple as walking back to the house, can it?”
That analogy came back to mind when I contemplated John 14:1. Here are the thoughts I recorded in my journal. (Please forgive my long, rambling sentences; I write these notes only for myself, not for publication!):
What the disciples were about to face—they didn’t know it yet, but Jesus did—was a horror of unprecedented magnitude. They were about to see the long-awaited Messiah, whom they knew to be God in the flesh, whom they had seen exercise supernatural power over everything (sin, death, disease, demons, storm winds, human authorities, physical laws), and in whom God would fulfill all His glorious promises to Israel—this One in whom they had willingly placed their lives, their hope, their faith—would soon be arrested like a common criminal and taken away, subjected to unjust trial, physical torture, and the most horrific execution mankind had ever devised, all without lifting a finger or a word to defend himself. It was more appalling than can possibly be described. And on the eve of this, Jesus tells them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
There is no difficulty, no trauma, no heartache we can possibly face in this world that falls outside that assurance: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Jesus.
Jesus knows what we’re going through; this is not a trite platitude. He knows full well, for he’s experienced it. Indeed, he goes through it with us. When we know Jesus, we know the way through it, because HE is the way (vv. 5-6).
I tried to depict this through my story, but John said it better. Jesus is the Light (John 1:1-5 and 8:12) that draws us to God. When we hear things bump in the night, when we see disturbing shadows in the darkness around us, when we’re filled with fear—and indeed, there are plenty of legitimately scary things in this world!—we can come into the Light. He’s always near.
This is not to minimize the dangers. Our troubles and fears may be horribly real, but they are not eternal; they’re not all there is. When we walk in Christ’s light, we can see the end of them.