Guest column by Bethany Getz
Almost exactly nine years ago on a sweltering day in early summer, Evan and I drove for miles along Westheimer in a rental car. One-year-old Clara sweated and squirmed in the back seat. Evan was in the midst of finishing up his dissertation and looking forward to his first year as a professor at Houston Baptist University, and we had taken a few days off to travel to Houston to find a place to rent. It was not going well. I cried as we drove down Westheimer, which at six to eight lanes wide was still congested. The businesses, strip malls, and huge apartment complexes strung one after another for miles. Used to the much smaller town of Waco, I felt overwhelmed by the vast, busy impersonality of Houston: how could our little family of three ever be at home here?
But we did find a home, and more importantly, we learned to be at home here. Both were a long process. Since that teary drive down Westheimer, our family of three has doubled in size, and we have created a small haven for the six of us in what was once a scary and impersonal urban landscape. Our physical home, of course, is central to this haven, but more metaphysically important has been the community we have found in friends from church, school, and work. Without these friends, all our efforts to create a home would have felt empty and vain. Evan and I visited St. Thomas’ only a few weeks after we moved to the Houston area, and we have felt at home in this community ever since. This church community has been a constant in our lives for nine years, and we are so thankful for it.
But in the past months, the opportunity to move to the San Diego area has arisen. I use the passive voice in that sentence intentionally because it seems like the path to California has been paved for us and we have been asked to walk along it. We have known for some time that Evan’s parents needed help, but there was no way to live near them. Until this spring. So we follow what looks like God’s plan for us and move to live near them and other family.
But it is scary and sad to walk down a path that leads you away from what has become home. What is, indeed, the only home your children have known. Even if that path leads you towards a place that you once called “home.” As Evan and I hitch up our wagon and set our sights on a new home, we are reminded that there is no home on earth that is not founded upon the inescapable sorrow of this life—the sorrow of being creatures whose every attempt to create a haven and call it “home” is marred by our finitude and a fallen world.
So as we leave behind our home and church home in Houston and look forward to the next, we allow ourselves to mourn the friends and community we leave behind. But we also let this sorrow remind us that until we come to our heavenly home we are always in some way traveling a road that is a busy yet barren highway. We are blessed when we are allowed to create homes that are havens for family and friends. But these homes are only temporary figures of the eternal and permanent home we long for, our heavenly home. So as we say goodbye to everyone at St. Thomas’, we don’t say goodbye forever, but only until we are gathered together again in that perfect and eternal community of heaven.