Part One: Belonging to a Place

Tucked inside Andrew Peterson’s Adorning the Dark is the story of how his home came to be. It’s my favorite chapter in one of my favorite books, and it starts with this confession:

“I was born homesick. Maybe we all were.”[i]

I remember listening as Andrew read aloud this chapter (Longing to Belong) in a conference breakout session. That night, he performed a little concert in the ballroom of the conference center and played songs about springtime and resurrection and going Home to King Jesus.

My family drove back to our hotel, and I remember feeling something. It wasn’t sadness, exactly, but it wasn’t happiness either. While they watched HGTV in the living room, I sat on the hotel bed facing a rain-bleared window. It was after 10:30, and I could make out red lights on the Interstate below.

I started writing about my home— these two-and-a-half acres on Edgewood Road where I’ve run the bases and climbed the trees. I wrote about my siblings and our neighbor boys and Papa Jay’s pond and all those evenings we spent playing wiffle ball under the sunset, and how I wore boys’ shorts and ran as fast as them all.

I wrote until I cried because I was reaching deep inside and touching something that ached:

A hole.

A homesickness.


How could you be homesick, Bethany? You’ve never left Edgewood Road.

True, I can’t wrap my arms around people who’ve uprooted and say, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know.” My story of deep, deep roots is rare. But still, I wince under this homesickness C.S. Lewis called sehnsucht. Up in that hotel room, I cried for something I couldn’t explain— something beyond my beautiful brick home.

I belong to Edgewood Road, where I’m writing at my desk— trees swaying outside the window and voices laughing in the kitchen. But my longing for something more keeps burning.

And it will.


As spring warmed into summer, I read a novel called Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I’ve read a lot of novels that have taken me a lot of places, but this one took me right back home. The raw beauty of Jayber’s life in Port William put me in a rocker on the back porch, watching clouds wisp by and Papa Jay amble through the gate for a visit.

My friend Elizabeth Harwell read Jayber too, but it only rubbed salt into her wounds. In her piece, A Table For Us, she wrote:

“It seemed like a cruel joke, a mocking of my current situation, to be falling in love with the words of Berry who so values the consistency of staying in one place. Jayber’s ghost hovered over me saying, “Being fixed in a place is a good thing.” And I nodded my head and said—“Yes, I know. I know it is, and I’m already arguing that point and you really don’t have to keep telling me that.” … I longed to be a fixture on a street, in a town, in one state. I wanted to know the dirt underneath me and to be in a place long enough to be known.”[ii]

We long for roots that will anchor us because God created us to love home. But what’s more, he created us to love him.

God’s presence is the Home we were made for.

God’s presence is the Home we were made for.


Adam and Eve lived inside four corners of God’s full and flowing presence. He was completely accessible to them and they were wide open to him.

Then they bit into what God had forbidden, and in words from Paradise Lost, “Earth felt the wound.” Something echoed now. God had to drive his creatures from Eden and place guards at its doorway, because he knew they’d try to get back to his fullness.

God made us for Eden, and as his children, we’ve been trying to get back ever since.


And so here we are in the meantime— in this place called Earth— where we breathe, walk, work, drive, eat, plant, sing, weep, and die. All the time, the hole inside us makes us double over. Like the Preacher of Ecclesiastes, we’re hungry for something substantial:

All is vanity… All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:2, 8, 9).

Then, he gives our craving a name:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end (Ecc. 3:11, emphasis added).

Eternity is coming, but eternity is also smoldering inside you and me. It’s even burning in the hearts of blind people like the Athenians Paul preached to:

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us (Acts 17:26-27).

We’re traveling pilgrims, yes, but we’re also builders, gardeners, homemakers, settlers. And maybe we don’t know it, but we’re acting out our longings for Eden— striving to reflect a ray of God’s glory on earth.

As we should.

Jesus’ blood bought us and made us children of light, so we shouldn’t sleep as others do (1 Thess. 5:5-6). We should stand at the window with a lamp burning in our hand, craning to hear our Master’s knock (Luke 12:35-48). We should take the wood or wisdom or wealth he’s given us and invest them for his glory until he returns (Matt. 25:14-30).

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:7-8).

While we’re breathing under this sun, we should plunge our hands into Kingdom work, reflecting Eden—the glory of God’s presence— in all we do, because the time is near (Rev. 1:3).


“I love this place,” Andrew Peterson writes, “I love it because I have loved it with my labor, with sweat and blood and a persistent desire to belong to it… The world that is whispers of the world to come…”[iii]

The saints of Hebrews 11 heard the whisper. They established roots here but kept their eyes on a New Eden.

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb. 11:13-16).

If our truest Home was God’s presence in Eden, then eternity is everything we’ve been longing for. It’s a Place to belong forever.

My favorite chapter in one of my favorite books ends with this:

“The Kingdom is coming, but the Kingdom is here. That’s why we’re homesick, and it’s also why we might as well get busy planting.”[iv]



Listen to songs of place on Spotify here.



[i] Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark. (2019: Nashville, TN. B&H Publishing Group), 49

[ii] Elizabeth Harwell, A Table For Us. (2019 November). Retrieved from https://rabbitroom.com/2019/11/a-table-for-us/

[iii] Ibid, 60

[iv] Ibid, 60

4 thoughts on “Part One: Belonging to a Place

  1. ‘God’s presence is the home we were made for.’ mmm. yes. that makes so much sense

    i read psalm 90 yesterday and the first verse struck a chord: Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

    in my musings i came to the same conclusion, my truest home in all its fullness is coming. but he is also my dwelling place now. and i want to dwell here on this earth well. so much ‘now, not yet-ness.’

    that ache for eternity is so real. it stretches my heart.

    thanks for writing this, bethany. it brought joy to my thursday. 💛

    Like

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