I sob-drove home from the school run today.
I had just dropped Koa off at preschool, and was walking out the door when I grabbed Claire, the administrator, and quickly said, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to email you about getting Koa in one more day after Easter.”
He’ll be three in March, and in England, you get free hours of preschool when your kid is three.
I expected her to say, “Sure,” or “I’ll just need to check our numbers.” But she didn’t. She said, “No hope, I’m afraid. There are no spaces left.”
So I nodded and bit my bottom lip and got in my car and let the tears come. And then I drove home crying. And then I cry-walked down the sidewalk to my house, and slammed the door behind me and sobbed and went into the kitchen and threw some stuff around and turned on the kettle – all while continuing to cry like a baby.
It probably sounds ridiculous to you, getting that worked up over a few hours of preschool. And it is. Or it would be, if it were really about a few hours at preschool. But it isn’t about just that. It never is about “just that”, is it?
What it is about, is Home.
When we moved to our town six years ago, we moved into the nicest neighbourhood here. Some of our friends who already lived in town said things like, “Ooooh, a bit expensive over there.” But we were coming from commuter-ville; from a town on the London Underground’s Metropolitan Line, where we lived in the tiniest, cheapest flat there was – and we could only afford that because our friend Phil’s dad owned it and he thought we were precious because we were young newlyweds.
Our new neighbourhood was a lot cheaper than that. So we got a big flat here, and then, a year later, a house. We’ve lived in that house for 4 and 1/2 years. We rent, but this has been our home. Adlai was a baby when we moved in, and we brought Koa home to this house.
It’s right by the park, and we’ve spent probably 60% of our waking hours down there on the swingset. Both of the boys learned to walk here. I’ve spent most of my income at the Italian shop around the corner, and the boys have both gone to preschool at a church four blocks away.
About 18 months ago, a couple of the national newspapers ran stories about our town being “up-and-coming.” One of them referred to it as “the perennial wallflower coming into bloom” (I loved that one). We were excited, me and my friends. We’d always known it was a great place to live. 40 minutes on the train to London, but still cheap enough for normal people to buy a house. It was a bit of a hidden gem. It was.
But then they started coming, the Londoners. And it’s great for the economy and great for the neighbourhood. The houses are looking tidy and the shops are thriving, and that’s what it needed, really. But I think the quiet collateral is people like me. Like me and my friends. We’ve lived here for years, pouring money into the local businesses, investing in the community. We’ve rented while we saved to buy. Except now, the incoming Londoners have driven all the prices up, and we can’t afford to stay.
It’s stupid to be angry at them. I would’ve done the same thing if I’d been renting a one-bedroom flat for £1800 a month in some backstreet in Dulwich and then all the sudden I heard I could get a mortgage for 1/2 of that on a three-bedroom house 40 minutes from King’s Cross.
But it’s hard when you made a place, and then suddenly you don’t belong there anymore.
But it’s not just that, either.
We were in North Carolina over Christmas. We were there for almost a month, and we had so much fun catching up with family, eating barbecue, seeing friends. But I don’t call North Carolina “home”. I don’t say, “I went home for Christmas.” It doesn’t feel like home anymore.
When we landed in London on New Year’s Day, we got in the queue for UK Citizens because Simon and the boys all are. When it was our turn to speak to the border control agent, she asked for our landing card. We hadn’t filled one out. We forgot we had to, because I’m a permanent resident.
“But you’re not a citizen,” she said.
And I cried. Right there in the immigration line. Because I feel like a foreigner everywhere I go.
Simon and I have been trying to buy a house for over a year. We have had offers accepted on two different places. Both have fallen through – the most recent one just this week.
I know all the theology about this world not being my home. I do. I get it. I don’t belong here and I’m not supposed to.
It’s obvious, isn’t it, that there is something significant happening here? The CEO of a homeless charity and his family can’t find a home. A couple whose passion is to see refugees resettled and restored can’t buy a house to save their lives.
I get it, God. I feel it. It hurts and I know. On an infinitely smaller scale, I feel the pain of displacement. I know what it is to desperately want to be at home.
I don’t know how this will resolve itself. I don’t know what this looks like on earth – whether we’ll find a house in a month that becomes our family home, and I give thanks and this lesson is learned. And I sit at my kitchen table and invite friends over for tea and I am wiser and more grateful because I felt homeless for a year.
Or whether God calls us somewhere completely different because our idea of home was never His. Whether tonight we have a dream that we are barefoot in a village in Brazil or Costa Rica (please Jesus, let it be so) or serving the homeless in Seattle or Asheville. And the whole point of this is that Home is not a place.
For now, on Earth, Home is him, and me – and these boys, too, for as long as they are here and young and ours.
And that is what I’ll cling to till the Kingdom comes.