I have been thinking a lot about home lately. More specifically, wondering where home is. As I am fond of sharing, in the last ten years I have lived in every time zone in the USA (except those covering Alaska and Hawaii).
Perhaps most of us have more than one place we call home. I think of three places.
Where I live now
In most senses of the term, the Birmingham suburb of Homewood is my home. (Over 1.25 million people live in the Birmingham metro area and about 25,000 live in Homewood. I include that here so maybe I’ll remember next time someone asks me.)
While I have lived in Birmingham for two years now, it’s still becoming home. Often you hear the phrase “putting down roots” describing the choice to live in a certain area. Well, my roots in Birmingham are young and relatively fragile. But it’s still home—the place I spend most of my time and where we have a growing community centered around friends, church, and the neighborhood.
Where I’m from
I was born in Washington State, and it’s still the place I’ve lived more than anywhere else. It’s where my parents lived until dad died last year, and my mom lives there still. (The picture above shows Lake Tapps, very near our house.) Most of my family on both sides live there. It’s where lifelong friendships grew and some of my most poignant memories live. It’s the place I came home to on college breaks, and it’s where my dad wanted his ashes scattered. If anyone asks me where I’m from, it’s what I say. And I think it’s what I’ll always say, even if I never live there again.
That’s what makes it home.
Where my heart lives
You know how Christians sometimes ask, “What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back next week?” Or maybe, “What would you do if you had one month left to live?” The implication is that you would call up someone you’ve needed to forgive, remind your friends and family how much you love them, maybe share the Gospel with new boldness.
Well, yesterday I asked myself a different question. If I knew eternity was at hand, what place on earth would I most want to see again, before everything is changed? The answer came easily: Oxford.
I titled this section Where my heart lives, but that doesn’t quite capture it. My heart is in Washington and Birmingham, too. So why is Oxford the place I want to go “at the end of all things,” as Frodo would say? It’s because Oxford is more than a place to me, more than the sum of the memories I made there. For me, Oxford a window, a chink in the door, a thin place, “where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin.”1
It’s where my soul lives.