and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
We all long for a home. The image that comes to mind when I say that is, of course, different for each of us. For me “home” conjures up a spread from Better Homes and Gardens or Martha Stewart Living. I imagine a sloping driveway, a brick edifice, soft lighting, thick carpets, shining hardwood, a crackling fire, walls lined with books, throw pillows, brightly colored rugs, a broad green lawn in front and a flower garden in back. Obviously this is not a description of my home now or at any time in the past.
Since getting married twelve years ago I've lived in nine homes. Our first home in Vietnam had a little garden, but also rats (big ones). We borrowed a home in the States that had a fireplace, but we had to leave after one year. Our home now is a tiny apartment on the Bible college campus where my husband is teaching. We have one window in the living/dining room that looks straight into classrooms in an adjacent building. The boys can play outdoors on a concrete basketball court from 4:30-7:30 each evening. If we want to be outdoors at other times we must walk three-quarters of a mile to a public garden. The walls are white plaster, the floor is white tile, and the lighting is fluorescent. I feel a little bit like a mouse in an observation cage. This is home for the next year or two.
How do I reconcile the home I daydream about with the home where I live? How do I settle once again into a place that is not the home I imagine? How do I remain content while I wait for that perfect home that never gets dirty or worn and that never loses it's value in a bad economy? I come back again and again to Psalm 84 for the answers.
Psalm 84 reminds me (in a nutshell) that I need to set my sights higher. I need to go bigger than Martha Stewart. I need to want more than bricks and bookshelves. The longing that lies beneath my itch for a comfortable house is a desire for the courts of God himself. That is where I belong. It is meant to be my home. It makes me think of the Corduroy story that I've read to our boys at least a hundred times. Corduroy is a stuffed bear who is purchased from the department store by a little girl named Lisa. When she brings him to her apartment he says, “So this is home. I've always wanted a home.” Then when Lisa fixes his missing button and gives him a hug, Corduroy says, “So this is a friend. I've always wanted a friend.” That's what heaven will be like. We will wake up to find ourselves home and in the embrace of God, our Father and Friend. We will never have to leave that home and it will be more splendid than we can possibly imagine.
In the meantime, I get to enjoy a foretaste of that home when I dwell in the Lord's house singing His praise. Like the sparrow and the swallow of verses 3-4, I can make a nest for myself and my children at the altars of the Lord. We can find our home in Him even now as we pray and praise and pursue his kingdom (see v. 5). Regardless of a stark apartment or a heavily mortgaged, falling-down home or the “desert places” of Psalm 84, we can go from strength to strength as we dwell in God's presence, enjoying Him even now with glad and grateful hearts.
When I just can't resist the urge to interior decorate, I can always daydream about furnishing my room in the house of the Lord (John 14). I'm thinking floor to ceiling bookshelves with one of those ladders on wheels, a fireplace so big a person could lie down in it, oriental rugs, armchairs, Tiffany lamps, and a canopy bed. Or maybe a sun-room painted white and filled with fresh flowers. Then again, Jesus said he would prepare it for me. I'll wake like Frances Hodgson Burnett's little princess to find my cold attic room transformed into a luxurious chamber filled with all of my daydreamed delights and more. Now that's something to imagine!