The pandemic has changed my understanding of home and rest. For a long time, I would anticipate being able to come home from work, take off my shoes, change into comfy clothes, and rest knowing that my day was done. I longed to go home to visit family, to change my routine, to rest in my childhood home with my parents nearby. Home and rest have always been connected. Until now.
The pandemic has made home my workplace, my gym, our kid’s playground, our date night. When we don’t leave home, we never can long for home. Intimately connected, the rhythm of work, energy, effort, and return, rest, recovery has been shattered. But the change in routine has been teaching me that home itself is not the source of rest. Home isn’t even a specific place. I am home all day long and yet I am experiencing exhaustion and longing to be somewhere else. I am at home and yet I feel restless, hungry for something else, wanting to rest but not knowing how.
James KA Smith, in his book On the Road with Saint Augustine, examines all of life through the lens of travelers looking for their home. Smith suggests that we are all travelers, every person is pursuing something, every person is on their way somewhere. The non-Christian is traveling with an ever-changing destination. Much like Augustine’s early life, the non-Christian travels looking for home, desiring to belong and find meaning, and ultimately discovering disappointment in every place that promises this home-ness.
The Christian, on the other hand, knows where their home is. Christians know that their home is not a place, or a job, or a relationship, or money, or fame. The Christian makes their home in God and places their hope in someday arriving at their ultimate Home in His presence. But perhaps more important than knowing where our home is, both the already-home in union with Christ and our not-yet home of seeing Jesus face to face, the Christian is able to find rest.
Rest. Who does not long for rest! Rest and home are intimately connected. As we find our home in Christ today, we are able to rest from the pursuit of worthless things and know who we are. The promise of heaven is both a coming-home to the Lord as well as entering into perfect rest. As Augustine famously said, Our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Perhaps he also would have agreed that our hearts are homeless unless they are at home in Christ. After all, it is the restless heart that finds itself on the road again looking for a home, hoping to find rest in something else out there, but never being satisfied.
In scripture, the concepts of home and rest are interwoven in the story of Israel. The people of God travel as exiled immigrants out of Egypt so that they might worship God in the wilderness and find rest from their ever-increasing labor as slaves. Israel travels towards the promised land, their promised home. A land flowing with milk and honey, a place where God’s presence would dwell in their midst, a home where they are known and loved, the home where they would enter the rest of God.
But if you get through Exodus and into Deuteronomy, you find that the journey home did not go smoothly. In fact, it went so poorly that God barred his own people from entering the promised land and entering into his rest for 40 years. God’s people relegated to be immigrant wanderers for a lifetime. A lifetime of tents. A lifetime of moving. A lifetime of knowing that you have a home waiting for you, a place where you will finally be able to lay your head down and stay, but not being there yet. Already knowing where you are going, not yet there.
The more I read scripture, and the longer I have been a Christian, the more I realize that Israel’s story is my story. Israel’s story is the story of the church. Yes, the terms have changed– instead of the cloud of God’s presence leading them, we have His Spirit inside of us. Instead of the sacrificial system, we have the perfect, finished work of Christ.
But just like Israel, I know where my home is and I will spend my lifetime journeying towards it. Becoming a Christian is not an endpoint, conversion gives you a map and compass and tells you what land you seek.
Like Israel, I will be tempted by different cultures, customs, idols, and ways of life that seem to offer a bit of rest for a weary sojourner. On my way, I will be “tempted to camp out in alcoves of creation as if they were home” out of my weariness (Smith, 17).
Just like Israel, I will have to depend on God for his daily provision, for manna from heaven. And yet, this is precisely the call of the Christian. To be travelers led out in faith, walking daily toward a home promised for them by the Lord. Abiding in his guiding presence. Surviving on his perfect provision. Refreshed each day by his rest and his presence. But always traveling. Smith says, “Conversion doesn’t pluck you off the road; it just changes how you travel” (Smith, 15).
For whatever reason, these words have been a deep comfort for me in this season. I need to be reminded that knowing where your home is does not mean you stop traveling. Traveling is hard, it is tiring, and I will be doing it for my whole life.
Knowing where your home is does not mean you stop traveling. I had forgotten this. I had also forgotten what kind of traveler I am. Christians are not tourists, visiting beautiful Instagram-worthy places in their daily lives, enjoying fancy meals, resting in nice hotels. Christians are immigrants. We have left a homeland of life apart from Christ, life living solely for ourselves, and we are immigrating, and being sanctified on the way, to the home he has called us to. And that is uncomfortable. But knowing our identity as immigrants does not mean that we do not find rest. Rather, we know that we will always be led and transformed by our good savior AND he will give us the rest we need to keep moving every day, to keep walking towards him and our ultimate home in his presence.
Jesus said, Come to me (come be at home in my presence) all you who are weary and heavy-laden (all you travelers who are worn-out), and I will give you rest…I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11). Humans are made to rest. It is a commandment from God. It is a reflection of God’s own nature as he rested after his work was done. He enjoyed it. He relished his effort and enjoyed the beauty of his work. We need this kind of rest. Rest given from our maker after we have followed him along the rocky pathways and steep climbs of everyday life. And Jesus promises it for us. But we have to come to him. We have to show up. And this is often my biggest challenge. It is so simple, and yet so difficult. I hear my loving Father invite me into his presence, his Word, into prayer, and I choose something else. Sometimes when I don’t want to work out I tell myself to just put on my shoes and walk out the door. Just show up and see what happens. I never have regretted showing up for a workout. Maybe it wasn’t my best one, maybe I was really tired, but I showed up. We need to put on our shoes and show up with God. Sit in your chair, open your bible, quiet your heart. Show up and he will meet you. Maybe it isn’t an earth-shaking time in scripture or your most inspired time of prayer, but it will never be wasted. Our God graciously meets us every single time. We need to be at home with Him, we need true rest for our souls.