Before the pandemic, I would anticipate coming home from work, changing into comfy clothes, and resting, knowing that my day was done. Home and rest have always been connected. Until now.
My rhythm of work and rest has been shattered. Although I’m home all day, I find myself exhausted and restless, wanting to find rest but not knowing how. It turns out that home itself is not the source of rest. Home isn’t even a specific place.
In his book On the Road with Saint Augustine, James K. A. Smith examines all of life through the lens of travelers pursuing a home. The non-Christian travels looking for home—desiring to belong, to find meaning and rest, but being disappointed by every place that promises this home-ness.
The Christian, on the other hand, knows where her home is. Christians know that their home is not a place, a job, a relationship, or money, but their home is in God. The Christian places her hope in someday arriving at her ultimate home in his presence while finding a home for today through union with Christ.
But perhaps more important than knowing where home is, the Christian is able to find rest—rest for her soul in the midst of the journey that will enable her to keep on traveling.
All of Life is The Wilderness
The concepts of home and rest are interwoven in the story of Israel. The people of God travel as redeemed, exiled migrants out of Egypt so that they might worship God in the wilderness and find rest from their labor as slaves. Israel sojourns toward the promised land, a home where God’s presence would dwell in their midst.
But the journey home didn’t go smoothly. In fact, it went so poorly that God barred his own people from entering the promised land—his rest—for 40 years. A generation of God’s people were relegated to be migrant wanderers for their lifetime. The younger generation of Israelites wandered for decades knowing they were going home, but that they weren’t yet there.
Israel’s story is the story of the church. Instead of God’s presence leading us through pillars of cloud and fire, we have his Spirit inside of us. Instead of the sacrificial system, we have the perfect, finished work of Christ.
But like Israel, we know where our home is—the New Jerusalem, where God will dwell with his people (Rev. 21:2–3). And we spend our lifetimes journeying toward that home. For the Christian, all of life is the wilderness.
Changing How We Travel
Knowing where your home is doesn’t mean you stop traveling. Conversion gives you a map and compass, tells you where your home is, and demands that you keep sojourning. Smith says, “Conversion doesn’t pluck you off the road; it just changes how you travel.”
Like Israel, we’re tempted by mirages—different customs, idols, and ways of life that seem to offer a bit of rest for weary sojourners. In our weariness, we’ll be “tempted to camp out in alcoves of creation as if they were home.”
Like Israel, we have to depend on God for manna from heaven—his daily provision. We are travelers, daily walking by faith toward a home promised to us, abiding in his guiding presence, refreshed each day by his rest and his presence. But always traveling.
Christians Are Immigrants
Traveling is hard. It’s tiring. And you’ll be doing it your whole life. Christians are not tourists; we’re immigrants. We’ve left a homeland of life apart from Christ where we once lived solely for ourselves, and we’re now sojourners who are being sanctified on our way home.
Knowing our identity as spiritual immigrants doesn’t mean that we never find rest in this life. Rather, our good Savior gives us the rest we need to keep walking toward him and our ultimate home in his presence.
Jesus said, “Come to me (come be at home in my presence) all you who are weary and heavy-laden (all you travelers who are worn-out), and I will give you rest . . . I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28–29, parentheticals mine). Our gracious God desires to give you his rest and invites you to come receive true rest as you travel with him along the rocky pathways and steep climbs of everyday life.
Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Likewise, our hearts are homeless unless they are at home in Christ. The rest we desire is given to us in our relationship with Christ when we come to him, the one who provides and meets us in our exhaustion as we travel home to him.