“Plant sequoias./ Say that your main crop is the forest/ that you did not plant,/that you will not live to harvest.”
– Wendell Berry
It’s funny perhaps, but I love how our house smells in the summer heat. It has the old-house smell of plaster and floorboards soaked in living. I loved the smell from the moment I set foot inside and knew it could be home. It reminds me of an old house I lived in as a child. It is everything that house could have been.
I woke this morning to commence the next decade of my life. My love lay warm beside me. He kissed me, held me for a moment and went to brew coffee. The children clattered after him. I lay back and smiled in the momentary stillness left behind. So much has happened in a decade – so much received and so much lost. I entered the decade still childishly innocent. I leave it grown. Joys and losses are the foods that nourish adulthood. The joy is sharpened, intensified, known more completely through its antithesis of grief. Perhaps this has been the lesson of my twenties.
These days I carry two homes always in my heart. One is the home we have painstakingly built together, Josh and I. This is where the beautiful mess of life happens daily. We brew beer and garden; we laugh and cry; we fight and forgive. Our children tear around like hurricanes until we snuggle and read stories together at the end of each day. When we feel discouraged, the brewing and gardening remind us that just as comforting brews and beautiful gardens emerge from grubby toil, commitment to the process, and a whole lot of waiting and hoping, so too with a beautiful marriage and home. We hold each other and vow never to cease in our toil, and never to stop looking for the beauty that emerges, sometimes in unexpected colours and flavours.
The other home I carry in my heart is one that crumbled. It is the home of my childhood. I find myself returning again and again to weep amidst the rubble. Sometimes as I shuffle through the memories, I rescue a small remnant of this or that: the song my mother sang when she rocked me, that now I sing to my children; the beloved stories we read as a family over and over again (Narnia, Little House in the Big Woods, We Never Meant to Go to Sea… the list goes on and on); the tradition of an advent meal in early December; and that of unkempt, real-life hospitality.
But even these pieces that I love and have saved do not satisfy the longing for the home that is no more. I never dreamed that I would not bring my children back to Granny and Grandad’s house, that it would not be a place of safety and love (or really a place at all). I never dreamed that the people I relied on most would hurt each other so badly that they would give up and walk out on the messy work of being a family, that other things would become more important. I never dreamed, yet here we are.
Here I am at thirty with two beautiful children and a husband whose love for me is written everywhere upon our life. We will surely make messes and hurt each other. Pain will surely be woven into our story as it is in all marriages – these dim reflections of Christ’s healing and forgiving love for his broken bride. In one way or another all husbands and all wives must hang on a cross for sins that are not theirs. In some mysterious way, this profound act of repentance and forgiveness is how God makes us whole: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” we pray.
Thus, I take my beloved’s hand and we look together into the next decade. We are not afraid. In this decade we will brew and garden and forgive more fiercely than ever. It will be our liberation front. It will remind us that the greatest maker and forgiver of all is already at work making our true home – one that can never fall apart – from the broken wreckage of this world. We will rejoice because we are called to be his ambassadors of hope. By the grace of God, and by his grace alone, our home, our marriage, our garden, and our beer will boldly proclaim: “The Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Sharon Mugg is a Canadian transplant living in Indiana. She is the wife of a philosopher (dinner conversations are never dull), and the mom of two crazies. Sharon is in the process of launching into graduate studies in English literature.
Welcome to a guest series I’m calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in part, because I’ve just released a book called, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, May 2017). I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment.
The story of Jesus is a home story.
Thanks for joining me and these other fantastic writers in our search for home—and the God who makes its hope possible.