Summary: As Christians we often feel out of place, but we are reminded of Jesus’ words that our real home is eternal life with Him.
Submitted by Dr. Bobby J. Touchton
“‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. 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 will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
INTRODUCTION: Where are you from? I like to ask that during orientation? It’s one of our questions, the kind that we ask when getting to know someone. We figure it tells a lot about the person. Like when you hear me talk or the way I think and I tell you I’m from North Carolina.
Oh, well, that explains a lot of things, you say. Same way it makes sense Bill Clinton is from a small town in Arkansas. It explains why the Kennedy family members all talk with a Boston accent.
ILLUSTRATION: When Mikhail Gorbachev was serving as the last president of the Soviet Union, the Russian people used to make fun of his accent. We never understood or could quite grasp it because we always heard him through a translator. But he had a strong accent from the southern state of Soviet Georgia. We snickered the same way when we would see the bright smile and southern drawl of Jimmy Carter from Georgia, the American one.
We tend to say, “There’s that California, left coast thing coming out. There’s that Midwest farm belt thing. Look out, there’s that northeast intellectual thing, that northern industrial thing, and that southern Dixie thing, praise God.” That’s changing, of course, and certainly we are not complete products of where we grew up, but place does shape us. God put the first creatures in a place. Eden. Center of the world. When God cast them from their place, the world was off-center. They were displaced. Not only homeless, but eccentric, literally; sent off to search forever for what they lost — home, Eden, their Place. That is our lot too.
It’s harder for some people. Like when I ask that “where are you from” question of, say, a couple engaged to be married, I sometimes get sort of a vacant stare from one of them. I usually know why. Military brat. Moved around a bunch. No sense of place. Could have been the kid of a Methodist minister, too.
As a prison chaplain, there are times I ask the men where are they from and they tell me the very last place they were. “Ah, I’m from the kitchen. I’m from C Unit. I’m from the Camp. I just got here from the Atlanta Penitentiary.” I want them to tell me where their place is. But even for the rest of us, our society has become so mobile that we are losing our sense of place, our particular piece of dirt that is the intersection of our worlds.
ILLUSTRATION: We go back to North Carolina a few times each year and I often go by the house I lived in there in Burlington. It is a strange feeling. It has been quite a few years for me. Thirty some since I had lived there. I still have dreams of that small four room house. As small as it was, now it is all grown up; like me I guess. Which may account for why it is smaller. It was really big when I was a kid. The street, the neighborhood, the house. The road is now four lanes and the house was strangest of all. Two owners, maybe three, removed from when it was our place. Now it’s hardly recognizable.
When they widened the road, they cut down the huge pine trees that grew in the front yard. They have pulled down the post and rail fence that my father put around the back yard. The people have changed everything. I recognized the front porch and the big plate glass window. That was it, pretty much. That was my place. I learned to cut the grass there. My father built me a sandbox in the backyard. There was the swing set. I buried my pet turtle back there and conducted my first funeral. I played all over that place. Somebody gets the mail now at 377 West Harden Street, but its not my Place anymore. The world has shifted for me. I am trying to find my Place here now. So be patient with me. I am still in transition.