Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven… Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
Psalm 107: 30, 43
It’s official; our house has closed escrow. We have a home. Several times in the last few weeks Debi and I have stopped what we were doing, looked at each other and said, “It’s finally our house.”
I didn’t realize how much difference it made to me to have a home. During the time in Tim and Sandy’s Airbnb, and the trailer we did fine and felt cared for, but when the house became ours, it brought us a sense of rootedness—it was to us that desired haven.
There is something dehumanizing about not having a home. I know we don’t mean to do that to each other, but it happens. When we first “moved” to Newberg, I tried to get a library card. I was surprised at how embarrassed I felt when I was told I couldn’t get a card because I didn’t have an address. I glanced at the people around me wondering what they thought when they heard those words come out of the librarians mouth. Home is a haven because it contributes to our sense of identity.
I also didn’t realize how much I missed the peace and space of the country after living in Portland for 8 years. Looking back over those years, I realize that I felt kind of like the proverbial dog that continually walks in circles on top of his rug without ever laying down. In many ways I feel more settled now than I ever did there.
That makes me wonder about those who live such frantic and crowded lives. Henry David Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and I think that is a pretty accurate description of the world we find ourselves living in. Media and technology can be helpful and serve significant purposes. But when we are bombarded by them from the time we get up to the time we go to bed, there truly is no quiet place for us to rest in. Our homes have been filled with the voices and images of strangers. We have forfeited our haven.
Along with a lack of a physical haven, I think many suffer from a lack of a spiritual haven. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “…God has place eternity in the human heart….” I think that’s what St. Augustine meant when he said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We have been created—hard wired—to rest in the belief that there is someone bigger, stronger, smarter and wiser than us who cares about us. We’re wired to desire a spiritual home.
In the classes I teach , I have a large percentage of my students who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” But when I ask them to tell me more, most are hard pressed to articulate what they mean by that. I suspect there is something in us that tells us we need a spiritual home. In a world that has convinced most that it is foolish to believe in anything or anyone beyond themselves or that which they can see and touch, we find a host of spiritually displaced and homeless people.
I know it is popular for parents to say, “I don’t make my kids come to church because I don’t want to impose my religious beliefs on them.” I’ve come to the place where I question the wisdom of that—more and more it seems to me that they are withholding a gift from their kids.
In his book Handbook of Religion and Health. (Random House, 2010), Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University evaluated over 1000 studies assessing the effects of prayer and religion on health. Some of the observations he noted are:
- · Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attend regularly.
- · Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not practice a religion.
- · Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had a stroke rate double that of people who attended regularly.
- · People who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. When they do become depressed, they recover more quickly.
The book cites many psychological and physiological explanations for these phenomena, but I suspect that there is one really important reason. Just as it is important for us to have a physical place to call home, there is something life-giving about having a spiritual home. I’m not just talking about having a local church community although that is important for many reasons. I’m talking about having some form of religious and/or spiritual identity that gives context to our lives, and in many significant ways helps define who we are and how we approach life.
I think this is what the psalmist is getting at in the verses above. God’s love offers us that spiritual home, that place that anchors us when the rest of the world is pitching around us, that place that grounds us when the footing in other parts of our lives is treacherous.
Debi and I are so grateful to finally be in a place we can call our own. But even though the last few months were filled with uncertainty and unsettledness we never felt adrift, because even when we didn’t have an address, we always had a home.