Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Having of Houses and Heaven-Set Hearts

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossions 3:1-2

Two years ago, Don and I very nearly moved to Texas. We ended up declining a less-than-ideal job offer there, and shortly thereafter, we purchased our home here in New England, where all of our close family lives less than twenty minutes away. In the past few weeks, however, some new job prospects have led us to again consider relocating. We have a comfortable home here, surrounded by family, friends, and a wonderful Bible-teaching church. On the other hand, in Texas we could have warm sunshine, a conservative political atmosphere that more closely matches our ideals than liberal New England, and a bigger, better house to shelter our growing family.

People say everything is bigger in Texas, and when it comes to housing, it certainly seems to be true. For the same price we paid for our three-ish bedroom, one bathroom, circa 1960 ranch located an hour outside of Boston, we could have a nearly new four bedroom, three bath, two car garage home in a Dallas subdivision, or we could go outside the city for a similarly large house with five times the land we have here. Southern houses feature such luxuries as standardized central air (oh, how I love air conditioning!), first floor laundry rooms (all old New England houses have the washer and dryer in the basement), master bathrooms with garden tubs, and walk-in closets the size of small bedrooms. And since Don and I love to virtual house hunt, we have looked at literally hundreds of houses, comparing everything from lot size to the depth of the pool, in search of the ideal purchase.

Our lonestar bubble was burst when we realized that our responsibilities and ties in the North would most likely keep us here for the forseeable future. It is hard to let go of the oh-so-affordable brand new log cabin on eight acres, or Don's similarly priced dream home complete with gunite in-ground pool, jacuzzi, fenced yard, double shower in the master bath, and theater room. But beneath the dazzle of new paint and countertops, even the grandest houses are but temporary dwellings, and it is all too easy to allow such temptations to become distractions at best, and at the worst, idols.

Recently, when my children were complaining about their perceived lack of choices at mealtime, I found myself continually saying, "You can have what you have," until it evolved into a song that the children and I were singing all day:

You can have what you have
You can have what you have
And be happy with what God gave you
You can have what you have
And be happy you have it
'Cause it came from the God who made you

As usual, just as I am trying to instill Godly character and virtues in my children, the Holy Spirit nudges me with a reminder that I need to practice what I preach. My unspoken complaints about my home, responsibilities, options, or limitations are as unholy in His sight as my five year old's demands for nothing less than a flawlessly cooked English muffin "with butter, toasted on the 10 setting." Who am I to tell God what kind of house I want, need, or deserve? We are so, so blessed to be able to afford any kind of house, when just two years ago the prospect of home ownership was little more than an elusive dream. How can I be anything but thankful?

Today, our family had the privilege of eating lunch with some traveling missionaries who have been called to Cambodia. Their family includes five children ages 3 months to 6 years old and the wife's sister, who travels with them to help. For the past year that they have been on deputation, all eight family members have been living in a trailer. As I chatted with the husband and wife from my cozy spot on their loveseat, I couldn't help but feel embarrassed over my own greed and selfishness. Here I was longing for a laundry room, when these missionaries can only carry a week's worth of clothing, and have to stop to wash it at someone else's house. Don and I often say how much we would like to have another bathroom, but at least more than one person can fit in our bathroom, and we have continual running water. Details like privacy, personal space, and excess stuff were nonexistent. I have spent so much time lately thinking about furniture and flooring and lot sizes, while they carry only what fits in the trailer as they travel from one church parking lot to the next. Yes, the Lord is always faithful to provide object lessons at the very time that we need them, and He could not have chosen a better time to show me how a family of eight can joyfully serve Him in a 300 square foot trailer.

There is still an honest longing in my heart to start over in a new place, to enjoy warmer winters and cooler summers, and to watch our family grow in a place where we have room to spread out and sustain ourselves to some small degree. Yet greater still is the desire to honor my Father and submit to His Will. It's not about bedrooms or backyards; it's about eternity with Him. For now, He says, "You can have what you have, and be happy you have it." I can thank Him for whatever home be blesses us with on this earth, but the perfect dwelling place is being prepared for me in His eternal Kingdom, and that is where I want to set my heart.

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