Where the heart is

We found her covered in mud and roaming bitter-cold streets as the sun went down on one of the last days of the year. She’s a terrier-Chihuahua mix, and we instantly loved her. A few years beforehand, after a long illness, our beagle Rosie had to be put to sleep, and, candidly, we couldn’t bring ourselves to adopt another dog. But here she was, shivering in the freezing cold. We took her in for the night and cleaned her up. She was sweet, and we knew that her people must not be far away.

The SPCA confirmed that she had a chip, so the owners were contacted. When they finally called a few days later, they told us the dog’s name was Churry. Turns out, Churry had lived many places, while never finding home. The original owner had given her away to a relative. Churry was soon given to another relative, who promptly passed her on to a friend, then to another friend. And now that friend didn’t want the dog, leaving her to roam the streets.

Then they asked, “Would you want to take her?”

It was an easy decision.

We all need a home. Adoptive families sometimes call them forever homes, the place of stability and safety. Home conjures up images of rest and familiarity.

For some, memories of home are not pleasant. Still, we long for home. We yearn to return to, or create, a place where we are accepted for who we are — to where we can return, or perhaps never leave.

“Where we love is home — home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts,” Oliver Wendell Holmes has said.

The Hebrew people longed for centuries for the Promised Land, a place of rest, milk and honey. But for Christians, Jesus redefined home. “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“Abide in me, and I will abide in you,” Jesus taught, meaning “make your home in me, and I’ll make my home in you.”

To be at home with Jesus is to be accepted, loved and never alone.

In what has been called the greatest short story ever told, Jesus talked about a son who approaches his father to say that he wants to leave home and receive his inheritance. The father’s heart is broken, but he agrees. The son travels far away and squanders his money, eventually becoming destitute, eating scraps and wondering what his life had become.

In a moment of deep hunger and longing, he “came to his senses” and decided to return to his father’s house. He rehearsed a great apology, but as he walked the road toward home, his father was watching for him, filled with compassion. The father ran to his son, kissed him, forgave him, and threw a grand party. (See Luke 15 to read the whole story.)

Such is the love of our Heavenly Father and the place of belonging and rest he longs to share.

He always leaves the light on.