A few years ago, months after my mom’s death, we sold my mom’s home. It was the house I grew up in. My parents bought it two years before I was born. Just before we closed on it, my friend Andy—my oldest friend who spent many days and nights there with me over the course of our childhood—said that we should go back and spend one more night there. We could bring sleeping bags and set up a TV in the basement rec room along with my old Intellivision video game system (which I still possess). We could pop popcorn, listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater on a boom box, and play video games all night.
We didn’t do that, of course. We both had too many adult responsibilities to pull it off. But his suggestion filled us both with longing. If only we could go back home.
Timothy Keller understands this longing. In his sermon on Psalm 103, the psalm that I preached this past Sunday, he uses an illustration from It’s a Wonderful Life to make a point about verses 15-16: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.”
There is nothing worse—no worse nightmare—than that place in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Frank Capra film, when Jimmy Stewart—remember George Bailey—he’s sent back to Bedford Falls, New York, right? And his place remembers him no more. He’s sent back, and it’s as if he’d never been born. He goes to see his mother. His mother has no idea—“Who are you? Get out before I call the police.” He goes to see his brother. Well, his brother is dead because—remember that? He’s in the cemetery because George wasn’t around to save him. He goes to see his wife—his wife, Mary. Doesn’t know who he is! Goes to his house—his house! His home.
Now what is home? Every other place you fit in. But home is the place that fits you. Home is the place where the chair’s where you want it. A real home is the place where the colors, the architecture, the furniture—everything is where it ought to be. The smells, the fire, the chair by the window. The ultimate home fits you. The ultimate home is everything you want.
And he goes to his ultimate home, the perfect home, and it’s a ruin. And it’s a nightmare. He says it’s a nightmare. Of course it’s a nightmare! He goes back to the place where he grew up. Verse 16: “And his place remembers him no more.” He’s a man without a place. He’s a man without a home. What a nightmare, right? Why?…
Why is our place so important? I don’t know. But the one thing we do know is that this is the human condition… Over and over and over again we go back and we find that our place remembers us no more. No matter how hard we try, houses crumble, we can’t make the mortgage, people break up, people get divorced, children won’t speak to you… that beautiful field you always remembered has a shopping mall now!
Why? What is this getting at? What it’s getting at is, we all need a place, we all need a sense of home, and until, we’re being told, you realize what your heart is really after, you’re going to spend all of your life chasing will-o’-the-wisps. You’re going to spend all of your life working too hard. You’re going to spend all of your life searching for something, and where can you find it?
Take a look at the contrast. It’s amazing. Its place, verse 16, remembers it no more, but… verse 17: What’s the replacement for that? “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him.” The Lord’s love is the home. The Lord’s love is the place. The Lord’s love is the only place that when you go there, they have to take you in. The Lord’s love is the only place where the fire never goes out in the fireplace. Jesus Christ says to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Where? “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” The ultimate home your heart is looking for is in there. The ultimate absolute safety you need is in there.
God knows I spent too many years of my life looking for home somewhere else! Don’t make the same mistake.
The following is a song about home from the Kinks’ 1969 masterpiece, Arthur, or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. Any home we try to make outside of our Father’s home won’t satisfy us.