Sunday, September 25, 2005

Going Home

The train rolled slowly into the station and came to a stop in a cloud of hissing steam with a loud screech and a tired groan. The little boy looked out the window wondering if he would get home at all. It was now dark and earlier in the day the conductor had told him that his ticket was only good to this stop and he would have to change to a different train for the remainder of the journey. But the little boy knew better, he had read the ticket carefully and knew that it guaranteed him passage on this train all the way home. He got up, picked up his bag and headed for the front end of the car. Just as he got to the exit door he spotted the conductor in the car ahead so he quickly ducked into the restroom.

It was filled with men, all smoking because it was the only place on the train where that was permitted. There were perhaps twenty or twenty-five persons there and with a thick layer of smoke hovering just a few feet above the floor, it seemed like a good place to hide. He pushed his way past the men until he came to the far corner of the room. There he sat down on the floor to wait for the train to start. Suddenly, the door opened and a voice called out, "Tickets, I need to see your tickets". The boy crouched lower as the conductor made his way through the thick crowd and equally thick smoke. In fact, it was so smoky he could barely see the shoulders of the man behind whom he was hiding and he prayed it would be equally difficult for the conductor to see him.

Just as suddenly as he had announced his presence, the conductor began to cough. The smoke seemed to be bothering him. He checked only a few more tickets and decided he had had enough. He turned around and left the room just as the train jerked into motion. After a few minutes they were steaming down the track, clackety-clack, clackety-clack. The boy went back to his seat, knowing that even if the conductor returned, he wouldn't stop the train just to put him off. He heaved a sigh of relief as he reclined in the seat and fell asleep dreaming of home. He was going home after all.

That was the summer of 1947, I am that boy and I did get home early the next morning. I ran off the train into the arms of my parents and told them the whole story. They were so proud of me that they scheduled a family get-together for the following Saturday where I got to tell everybody of my great adventures of six weeks on my uncle's farm and the exciting train ride home. This song always calls forth that memory.

Going Home (link)

Many times in my childhood we'd travel so far,
By nightfall how tired I'd grown.
Father's arms would slip around me and he'd gently say
My child, we are going home.

Going home, I'm going home.
There is nothing that can hold me here.
Well, I've caught a glimpse of that heavenly land.
Praise God! I am going home.

Now the twilight is fading, the day soon shall end.
I get homesick the farther I roam,
But the father has led me each step of the way
And now he'll lead me home.

Going home, I'm going home.
There is nothing that can hold me here.
You see, I've caught a glimpse of that heavenly land.
Praise God! I am going home.

Unbelievers are likely to read those words and shake their heads in disbelief as they think or say, "you people must hate life since all you do is look forward to dying". In some respects they have a point which we, as Christians, should consider not because they may be right, but because we may be wrong. They are not right of course, their mockery is the result of their rejection of God. But if we reject the world and only look forward in anticipation of "that heavenly land" are we not falling into an error of our own.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all suggest that this world is not our home when they question the value of gathering worldly pleasures at the expense of spiritual ones (Mt16:26, Mk8:36, Lk9:25). Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that we are in this world and if we believe that God made this world for us as we are told in chapter nine of the book of Genesis, then not enjoying it must be another form of rejecting Him.

Anyone who has ever travelled far from home for a period of time knows the sense of anticipation of returning home. There is an excitement in the preparation, edged perhaps with a little sadness that the sojourn is ended. As we approach nearer to home the familiarity of surroundings impacts our senses and a kind of comfort takes over. And then arriving home...relief. Life offers few comforts greater than sleeping in one's own bed. We don't forget nor do we diminish our enjoyment of the journey, the experiences we had, the people we met, and the pleasure they offered. But at some point we begin looking forward to returning home and the joys of the trip begin to give way to the anticipation of coming home. So it is with a Christian understanding of earth and heaven.

Given that we are transients, even trespassers in a sense, in this world it is not surprising that some find comfort in the knowledge that another home awaits them. A home that we have not earned and do not deserve. A home that is provided solely through the grace of a loving parent. The Bible speaks of this home again and again and holds out God's promise to man. One of the two thieves crucified with Jesus asked to be remembered in the Kingdom and Jesus said to the thief, "today you will be with me in Paradise" and that promise holds true for all who believe. The thief had glimpsed the truth and was taken home.

We are all riding on a train called life. It has many detours and many stops and it has but one destination. The only question is will you be on it when it gets there. Will you be like the little boy who enjoyed the ride, but hid from the danger in order to 'get home' or will you be lured into disembarking? Will you be able to say as the song says, "I've caught a glimpse of that heavenly land -- praise God! I am going home."?

Nuda Veritas

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