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6 STORIES

What do you call HOME?

From the June 28, 2004 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


Scene 1: Finding a new home


Exterior. On the road to California — day

Intrepid Newlyweds, Adam and Joy peel away from Boston in a car laden with, among other things, two new toasters. They are giddy with excitement —

Adam has a job teaching theater, Joy is starting a graphic design business, and they're moving into a sleek loft apartment in Silicon Valley. Six months later —

Cut to: Interior. Sleek loft Apartment — late, late night

Joy: They're raising the rent.
Adam: Again?

This two–line scene had become a mantra. Soaring rent, past–due student loans, burgeoning credit debt, and the cost of living had made us feel like two unwitting characters in a farce. We looked for another apartment, but came up empty–handed.

In the past, whenever it looked as though there were no answers, Adam and I prayed — in our individual ways — to find one. This time, we decided it would be helpful to sit down together and make a list of the qualities we associated with home: Safety. Peace. Comfort. These were some of the things on our list. What we realized from this exercise was that we would have everything we needed, and wanted, in a home, wherever we lived — these qualities were spiritual constants in our life because they had their source in God; they weren't material amenities. There's a quote in Science and Health that Adam and I love, which was very reassuring to us: "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (p. 494). This simple, profound idea brought us comfort (and a home) immediately.

The following day, we began our search again, confident that the next scene would play out happily. Sure enough, we found a listing for a guest house one mile from where Adam taught. Even better, the family in the main house had recently moved from China and offered to lower the rent substantially in exchange for English tutoring for their three children. Suddenly, my English degree looked pretty good. Within a week we had moved to our new residence, which would be our home for the next two years.

Since then, we've moved several times, to areas infamous for their high cost of living. But each time we've taken "home" with us, and we've found a home in a whole new way.

Home in a time of war


My family and I returned to Angola from Congo in 1987. We were among the refugees created by the Angolan civil war. When we arrived in Luanda, it was difficult to find a home. Many people had fled their villages to live in town, where they found security.

But even government ministers were having problems finding homes.

During that time we lived with 16 families in one house. I couldn't bear to have my family live in those conditions. Because in all problems I put God in first place, I prayed, recognizing Him as the source of all that is good and knowing that all things are possible to God. I turned to Psalm 23, which promises, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." And I thought, We dwell in God's consciousness, in His awareness of us all. God is the source of ideas, and home is one of His ideas, so our real home is in God. If the bird has his house, as the Bible also explains, men and women — God's highest representatives — cannot lack a home, either.

I was unemployed when we arrived in Luanda. But I saw this as a time to grow spiritually. I studied the Bible and Science and Health, and in those books I found the recipe for overcoming the problems that my friends and I were facing. Science and Health explains that "divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (p. 494). My prayer included all countries that were involved in Angola's war. God was caring for those who were with the rebels in the jungle, too.

I went to see a government official and explained to him the difficulties that all 16 families were in. He sent someone to take a look. After two weeks, we were given a room in a hotel, where we still live, and a week later all the other families were given rooms in different hotels in Luanda, some without having to pay even a centavo.

God attends to our needs when we trust in Him in all circumstances. Heaven is not a place, but our state of thinking. We are in heaven when our thoughts are with God.

Letting go was the lesson


IT was the "year that was." In less than 12 months, and after a long marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce, we sold our condo, my daughter got married, my son left for college, and I moved 300 miles away to begin a new job where I knew hardly anyone. And once there, I wound up moving three times in the first six months. It was time to find a more permanent home and settle down.

I wanted to live in a neighborhood close to work, and I had a vision of a cozy and gracious home full of light and with room enough for my son to visit from college. But I found I was priced out of my so–convenient–to –work neighborhood. I realized I needed to drop my preconceptions about where I would live. And I began to pray about the qualities I wanted in a home, rather than focusing on a physical description and location.

A Bible passage, "In my Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2), became firm in my thought. Soon, I found myself on the doorstep of a shabby–looking house very much in need of repair, in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood not so far from work. However, the real estate agent told me that the owner was very distraught about selling the house and would make any transaction difficult. Even so, when we got inside the house, I felt an immediate connection—not only to the house, but to the owner! As I looked around, it felt like this was the right home for me.

But the real estate agent was right. The owner was very difficult—canceling meetings, refusing to sign the contract. Although I had compassion for the difficulties she was going through, my heart sank. One night as I prayed about the situation, it came so clearly to me that if that house wasn't meant for me, then I didn't really want it and I didn't need to keep trying to hang on to it. On the other hand, if it was the house for me, then nothing could stop it from coming to me. I was relieved. I could let God handle the situation. I could trust Him to guide both me and the owner.

With that, I was able to let go. I knew that God had a home for both the owner and me — either there or elsewhere. I felt at peace. The next day, my real estate agent called. After weeks of haggling and disappointments, the owner had unexpectedly shown up that morning and signed the contract.

Since then, I have loved living in that house. The neighborhood feels like home. And slowly but surely bringing the house out of disrepair has been my way of showing my gratitude for being able to feel at home.

'In my Father's house are many mansions'


My wife and I have often prayed to God for guidance in finding suitable housing. An idea that we have found helpful to pray with at those times is that everyone has a mission, or purpose, from God, which includes everything necessary to carry it out. To say you have a divine purpose may sound pretentious, but it's really saying that we don't live for ourselves, but to serve God.

At one time, an unexpected employment opportunity made it necessary for us to find a new home quickly. We searched for several weeks for a house to buy, but found nothing in our price range. We prayed and trusted that because our purpose in life was to love others and to benefit them, God would lead us to an appropriate place to live while we were doing this.

To this point, our house–search had been limited by our calculation of what we thought we could afford. Then a friend told us something that he had learned from his own experience. He said, "You can afford more than you think you can." We didn't take this to mean that we should live extravagantly, but rather that God's love certainly does supply everything we need. The beauty and efficiency we were looking for in our housing were natural results of the recognition that, as Saint Paul put it, ". . . in him [God] we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

Trusting this insight, we broadened our search and quickly found a house we really liked. While the price felt like a financial stretch, it turned out not to cause us any hardship.

Our 30 years of marriage have been approximately evenly divided between owning and renting our various dwellings. Each home has included spiritual qualities such as serenity and beauty that support our work. It's wonderful to learn that a right purpose in life provides a right place to live.

A perfect place


Three years ago I decided to move to Heidelberg, Germany, where my girlfriend, Martina, was studying. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to spend a year in another country. But because I was in my last year at the University of Milan, I couldn't par ticipate in the university's exchange program, and I had to find a place to live on my own.

In August, I went to Heidelberg on vacation to look for housing. I found all kinds of places. Some were nice and conveniently located; others were quite far from my girlfriend, and from the center of town. All of them were too expensive. I returned to Milan without having found anything.

In October when the school semester was beginning, I returned to Heidelberg to look again. Every day I would go to an office in a university building to look at lists of available places. But after two weeks with no success I felt discouraged — I wanted to give up. At that point I turned to God and asked Him to help me find the right place. I remembered all the times that I'd found solutions to my problems by trusting that His plan for me is always the best. This gave me the energy to look again.

The next morning, as I was riding my bike, I passed by a building with a room that I had seen in August. I was tempted to think that I should have taken it, even though it had been too expensive. But, as I thought about it, I realized that my real problem was fear. I was afraid of a lot of things — of living in another country, of not understanding the language, of not having enough money, of not being able to finish university on time. These fears kept me from feeling close to God and trusting that He was taking care of me.

When I got to my girlfriend's dorm, I opened up my copy of Science and Health. I read a while, and the ideas in that book helped a lot. When I finished, I felt the love of God all around me. My thoughts had changed from "from fear to hope" (p. 125). It was incredible because as soon as this happened, the solution came.

That afternoon a friend of my girlfriend's called, saying she had found a different room for rent. We called the owner, and I was able to see it right away. It ended up being the cheapest room I'd looked at. It was big and close to downtown, and it had a great view of the city. I lived there for ten months, and it was perfect.

Home away from home


I don't think I have ever felt so far from home. It was the middle of the night, September 12, 2001, and I was alone on a bus returning from a meeting in Paris to my temporary home in Norway. As much as I had tried to pray about the events that had happened the previous day in the United States, comfort and peace seemed elusive.

For several days before this, I had been feeling homesick, wishing to be with my family back in Boston as they dealt with their sadness over the loss of our beloved family dog. And now, with the terrorist attacks that had taken place on the East Coast, the desire to be back in my community with family and friends was even greater.

But instead of going home, I was headed back to a strange apartment that was undergoing renovations, where there was no telephone. I felt cut off from the love and security that I always have associated with home.

In spite of those feelings, deep down I knew I couldn't be cut off from God — from divine Love. And just recognizing that as the truth opened me up to the possibility of feeling God with me there. About a week earlier I remember I had been looking out my office window one day, seeing beautiful clouds roaming across the horizon and being reminded of the Bible's promise that God's "faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds" (Ps. 36:5). I had really been living with that metaphor for God's constant love.

Shortly after that, one night, I had a dream that a phone was ringing. In my dream, when I finally picked up the receiver, there was a message that I heard so distinctly. It was a familiar sentence from Science and Health: "Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious—as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not" (p. 495). Even in that dream I felt so grateful for this tender, direct reassurance that my home–life in Norway was already ordered by God, who is divine Life.

In subsequent days, I saw many examples of God's love working in the world and caring for me. I was able to speak with my parents on the telephone. And some pressing practical needs I had, including finding a place to do laundry, were cared for in unexpected ways. I had a new understanding of home, one not so defined by physical location. And I have lived with that lesson since then, while continuing with overseas work.

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