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I love my house – sometimes. Time and again I look around my house and I am reminded how blessed I am. Then there are days when I seem to notice every insignificant flaw within it. When we built this house, ten years ago this month, we had just moved out of the city and did not have any kids yet. Our first few months in this house were spent in child-like amazement at how wonderful our new home was. Now, true suburbanites with five kids, we wonder sometimes what we were thinking when we designed certain aspects of our house.
There was a time a few years ago when I spent a lot of time comparing my house with others. It was sad how much time I spent doing this and it all began back in my blissfully innocent days. As a child my step-dad (who owned a construction company) would often take me to home sites and show me the houses he was building. I would admire the spiral staircase in one home and the wooden beams in the ceiling of another. When I was about 8 or 9 we sat down together and he designed my future home… a three-story Victorian home (more like a miniature castle) with a wrap-around porch and a three car side-load garage.
He tucked his drawing into his portfolio and slid it under his bed.
We would look at the drawing every now and then and I would dream of my kids running through the front door and straight out to the back porch. I envisioned hosting family dinners in the stunning dining room with the massive bay window. I’m not sure if he actually planned on building this for me someday or if this was just a fun activity for us to do together. Yet, as a young girl living in a crammed two-bedroom apartment in a poor neighborhood, that drawing was my treasure, tucked secretly away in the back of my heart.
Years later as an adult, living comfortably in an outwardly ideal neighborhood in a house we designed ourselves, I was struggling to not fall into the discontentment trap. Trying to gain some perspective, I decided to find out what God’s thoughts were in relation to our homes. To do this I wanted to read how He “structured” the first “home” – the Garden of Eden. I prayed that God would show me His values as I opened my Bible and began to read Genesis chapters 1 and 2 (with a special focus on chapter 2 verses 8-22). As I read the passage, I began to unknowingly focus and meditate on the passages that talked about the river that flowed out of the Garden (vs 10-12 below).
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden;
from there it was separated into four headwaters.
The name of the first is the Pishon;
it winds through the entire land of Havilah,
where there is gold.
(The gold of that land is good;
aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)
That’s when it hit me. The Garden of Eden is known for its perfection, its completeness, its provision of all humankind’s needs, right? But here it is, right in the Bible. The “good” gold was not in Eden. This gold, along with aromatic resin and onyx, was in the land of Havilah.
Now, I am no Biblical scholar and after some research I am not sure anyone knows exactly where Havilah is or how far it was from Eden (Wikipedia was of no help J), but the New King James Version of the Bible starts these verses by saying, “Now a river went out of Eden.” So it is safe to say that the land of Havilah was in the vicinity, but not inside of Eden. There may be many reasons why the writer specifically pointed out that these materials were in another land and not in the actual garden, but I asked God why He was showing this to me.
I have to admit, this bothered me. This, after all, was paradise and I expected to find all of life’s richest treasures to be within arm’s reach of Adam and Eve. I went right to God and asked Him why this perfect place that He had created for His people to live didn’t have all this fancy “stuff” that I had deemed important and necessary. Quietly and gently, He spoke to me. Sure, Havilah had gold and the resin, precious commodities to us humans. “But,” God whispered softly in my ear, “Eden had something far more precious… Me.” Genesis 3:8 confirmed this: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” I was beginning to get it. I was grasping the value of relationships and letting go of the possessions. My house is more than a collection of precious commodities, but a dwelling for seven souls and a “garden” in which our family and our faith will grow. I could fill my home with the treasures of this earth, or I could invite God’s Spirit to dwell among us. I could focus on the deficiencies of my home or the sufficiencies of God.
During a recent Bible study the topic of longing came up. The Bible study leader explained that longings are good. We can long for perfection because we were created for it. But this perfection cannot be found on this side of heaven. We can long for a perfect home, but we must wait, patiently and faithfully, for our true home in heaven.
I’m sure I’ll never see that Victorian home my step-dad drew for me. When I left for college our relationship fell apart and I haven’t talked to him since I was 18. Despite this situation, I have now come to see my current home as a garden in which I am growing and nurturing my family in rich soil of love and faith. Still, I do long for a better home someday, the home that my Father is building for me. I don’t know if it will be made of gold or fine jewels, but I do know that it will have the most precious possession… God Himself… and that is all I need or want.
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
~ James 1:17
“The night is about over,
dawn is about to break.”
Romans 13:12a (The Message)
Wouldn't life be great if we could make our own stack of “Community Chest” cards from the game Monopoly? Whenever things got difficult, we could just pick up a card and go right past the hard stuff. During the holidays couldn't we all use a “Get out of shopping at the mall” card? There are some days I wish I could draw my favorite card from our Disney version of the Monopoly game: “You are the fairest of them all!” I’m sure Todd would love to draw the “win two tickets to the Rose Ball” card from our Penn State Monopoly. But I think if I had my own stack of Community Chest cards, my favorite card to draw would be the card I would draw every year just after New Year’s – “Advance your life directly past the winter blues, proceed directly to your favorite holiday… do not shovel any snow, do not collect 200 viruses”.
The winter months seem to go on endlessly. If I remember correctly, two winters ago brought us in the north east our snowiest winter ever. I was sure summer was going to miss us entirely and we would by-pass right into fall. I know many of you feel the same way I do. The cold, gloomy days, compiled with the 11 hours of darkness only add to our everyday frustrations. There are no extended breaks from school or work, and many of us save our vacation days for warmer weather. The only thing we have to look forward to once the New Year begins is summer – a dreadful five months away!
Apprehensive about the onset of the long winter season, I began wondering why Christmas was put at the beginning of winter. It would make life much more enjoyable if it occurred at the end of winter. That way we could spend the long, dreary days of winter surrounded by family gatherings, twinkling lights and mom’s cookies (though it would make bathing suit season all the more painful!). I knew that Jesus’ actual birthday was most likely not on December 25th. So who’s bright idea was it to place it on that day anyway? This fall, as I was reading my Bible study, I discovered that it actually was a “bright” idea to name that day as his birthday.
In the fourth century, the Roman pagans celebrated the winter equinox (then thought to be December 25th) by having festivals for their sun gods. The church wanted to extinguish their holiday that took the focus off of the One, True God. So they put their party hats on and declared December 25th to be the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. But it wasn't simply to put an end to the pagan holiday.
The days at the end of December are the shortest days of the year (in terms of daylight hours). Just when the days could not get any darker, when hope began to fade, when it seemed as though God had forgotten, He came to earth, bringing light to us all – radiating from His Son. The days following Christmas get continuously longer and brighter, symbolizing the truth that at His birth, Christ brought heaven’s radiant light to us on earth.
Sometimes life gets dark. The kids grow up and leave home. We lose loved ones and friendships fall apart. Even when our physical world is surrounded by the blessings we all long for: good health and loving family, our internal worlds can become dark holes that leave us feeling lonely and scared. Some of us have noisy homes, but fearful hearts. Others of us have good health and great jobs, but empty homes. No matter how dark today is or how bright and joyful tomorrow may be, we do not know for sure what the future holds.
But this January, as we reminisce about Christmas and pine for summer, one thing we can all be sure of is that each day brings more light than yesterday. Every minute is a minute closer to the bright future promised to those who love Him. And no matter how dark and dreary our winter is, one thing is for sure, we can all have the greatest Community Chest card ever written:
“There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.”