A House in the Country

I pictured a house in the country. A place I called home. A home where I would raise my children. I pictured carving their names in a large old tree outside and notch their heights in the trim inside. I pictured them growing up, watching myself and my husband age. Years later, I pictured welcoming them home as adults under old pictures of a lifetime and sagging drapes that belonged to decades before. Their names scarred in the same old tree and their notches yellowed into the same old trim, but all of it, everything, whispering loving permanence. Home. A place that I have told the Lord about and tried to lay it down, only to quietly pick it up again in my weaker moments. Dreams. They are hard to give up, no? 

Home is constantly on my heart these days. Not just because our lease for this old house in the city is almost up, not just because we are always home because of the virus, but because I have a heart to make a home. I am a homemaker by choice, but every mother, and every woman (mother or not), has the God given desire to make a place to nurture those she loves. Whether she works outside the home or not, it is her loved ones (her own or spiritually adopted) and their needs that propel her out or keep her in. Deep in her soul, she does what she does and how she does it for the ones she loves. Beautifully picturing the compassion and gentleness of her Creator, it’s this that is uniquely feminine in her soul. What then, does a woman like me do with this verse? 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (John 14:26). 

Like God asking Abraham to offer his only beloved son; like the prophet asking the widow to feed him her last bit of bread; like the Lord asking the rich young ruler to give up his wealth; like the Lord asking the little boy to give up his lunch; how can he ask what is so deeply unnatural for me to give? I look at each of these stories and their success or failure to obey. Then I look into the faces of my little ones, feel the warmth of my husband’s hand over mine and ask the Lord, “How?”

With her brow furrowed in disapproval, my little girl asked me the same question yesterday. “Does Jesus want me to hate my sisters?” 

“No,” I said, “but our love for the Lord needs to be so big, that compared to it, your love for your sisters looks very small. What do you love more than Jesus? What is more important than trusting Him?” She smiled and told me “Nothing!” then skipped away. I couldn’t fathom if she had understood any of it, but I did. I thought of that picture of home in the country that swam into my heart with every newborn bundle I brought home. I thought about it now, as we launch into the grueling process of house hunting once again. 

And it was as if the Lord asked me again, “What do you love more than Me?”

But, I ask you dear reader, what did He love more than me?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son… so that whoever believes in Him would have eternal life” (John 3:16). He loved His Son. Jesus was His beloved Son. The only Son. But the cross that he carried, the cross he was nailed to, the cross that supported his body as he suffered eternally for me, did not look like love. It looked like shame, it looked like violent abandonment. Only a willing Son that chose to go made this cross the ultimate picture of love. God gave his only Son for me, and the Son went willingly for me. This overwhelming gift is also offered to the nations. 

Tell me, what can I hold back from Him? From the people He died to save? What dreams of drapes or old trees or notches on trim compares to the matchless worth of making this staggering love known? What compares to willing service for Him? Is there something in your soul that you cling to, dear sister? Maybe he doesn’t ask you to give up your house, but he does ask you to lay down what you love more than Him. Hold that precious thing up and compare it to what He gave, and let its value drain away compared to His worth. Ask Him to show you Himself.

“Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:23). 

The loveliness of the Christian life is a constant cycle of giving up our dreams only to have them transformed into something much greater. The gentle Shepherd of our souls does not take what He will not return. As we lift up our little ones, our loved ones, our dreams and our plans onto the altar, He is complete in His care for us and them. 

 “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:29–30).

As we enter 2021 and I turn my heart with renewed hope to this old city and a home that will look nothing like what I dreamed, and you set aside some lovely dream that you have been holding back from Him, let us do it with joy. For we know that the dreams we lay at his feet are nothing compared to His love for us, nothing compared to the return that we will have in this life, and nothing compared to the glory that will be our eternal home. Who knows, maybe I will love the house we find. But I do know that it won’t be my forever home. The Spirit may very well call us away from this next home sooner than we think. My true home is in heaven. And no trees or notches or drapes will take that lovely hope from my soul.