Last Day in the White House

Remember the last day you woke up in a place you lived for a while? I always hated moving, especially waking up the day I was moving out. They were always anxiety-filled days for me…leaving behind a place with memories and experiences. Today was moving out day for Donald and Melania Trump. No matter your opinion on his leadership and legacy (and I know there is a wide array of those), one sure thing about a President of the United States is that he (and hopefully someday a she) will vacate the premises of the White House.

I wonder what Trump was thinking as he vacated the premises? Would he think Oh, I really loved this bathroom, I’m sure going to miss it. Or maybe, I love the view from this window, I wish I didn’t have to leave this place. Perhaps he loved the perfect curve of the Oval Office and how the doors fit perfectly into the curve. I’m sure there is lots to miss about living in the White House. The most perfectly stocked refrigerator in the world would be in my top 5. But no matter, living there was only a perk of this temp job called President.

It got me to thinking. All the Trumps packed out was what they brought in 4 years ago, maybe add a few trinkets and T-shirts. It really wasn’t their home to begin with…it was just a “rental” with a four year lease and no payment. Even though it was their mailing address for a while, did it ever really feel like home to them?

And what is home? Is it just the place where the majority of our stuff resides? Or is it the place I feel most at rest…where I can let my guard down and be the real “me.” Even growing up in a relatively healthy environment I struggle with what felt like home. After hearing someone speak on the subject I landed on places or environments I felt most alive and authentic, not necessarily the locations. I ran cross country in high school and felt most alive the last two miles of practice runs where it was all a slight downhill to school and my legs were flying. Those were my fastest miles never timed. And I felt like I was living fully free, alive and unhindered. I still dream of those runs.

All of us probably wrestle with what feels like home. Am I right? It’s more than just where you were born, where you live, or where you get your mail. It’s more like the place you long for. But it’s more than that still. We all want a place of peace that feels like a haven. A place having a comfortable familiarity where we can just be and be known. A place free of tensions and expectations. Does a place like this really exist here in our terrestrial experience?

Actually, I would contend that such a place doesn’t exist in the truest sense. I think we can find pieces of those hoped for havens but we can never find the perfect place of rest. Perhaps this is because we wrestle with being comfortable in our own skin, content and at peace with who we are. Rare is the person who makes it there because we all have areas of personal growth and outside challenges that perpetually push us beyond our status quo. Perhaps it is because our picture of what is perfect always seems to be shifting as culture, technology and house styles change.

Mostly, because the people in our lives are also curiously imperfect and their imperfection rubs against our own imperfection making for tense relationships surrounding us. Dang it. I always say, “This would be a great place to work if it wasn’t for the people.” People mess everything up because people are messy. But if you take away all the people to create a perfect haven then you would eventually get to another problem. Loneliness and isolation.

The french doors of this apartment in California was the closest a place felt to being perfect. But I was also in the worst period of anxiety and depression of my life when living in this place.

So how can you make a home here while there are still all sorts of problems in the world?

  1. Recognize other people aren’t the cause of all your problems. The problems start with us and our imperfection. So the sooner we can honestly see, acknowledge, and accept our shortcomings, the quicker we can get to a place of being comfortable in our own skin.
  2. Recognize we are constantly changing. Every time we reach some form of equilibrium, happy to arrive at that place, something shifts around us. If there is anything 2020 has taught us it is that change is the constant. We will grow in finding a haven when we can be content with change as the new norm.
  3. Recognize holding things loosely will actually help. I love the quote by Martin Luther, “I have held many things in my hands, and have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” When we clench our fists on the things we are trying to maintain we find anxiety is much closer a feeling than contentment. Keeping our hands open, figuratively, helps us grow in contentment.
  4. Recognize “home” is an intangible concept. A verse in the New Testament speaks to this: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20) We really aren’t made for life here to make perfect sense, and so many things don’t make sense. Musician Larry Norman quipped in one of his songs “We’re only visiting this planet.” Really our whole terrestrial life is just living in a rental and we are just here temporarily. If we can come to terms with the temporary then we make peace with the places and situations of life.

The truth is we rarely get to a place of contentment in our own skin, we seem to always be reaching for something else professionally or relationally. We are always yearning. And endlessly searching for home with the tenuous nature of almost all things in our lives is like chasing after the wind. Instead of chasing, if we can focus more on resting in the realities of life (even though they are constantly changing), then contentment is a possible partner in that pursuit.

Well, here’s hoping 2021 will be a year where things improve and change for the better. I hope you can find a home that is not a “rental” but a place of peace and contentment. It is more found when releasing things than doing things…and that’s harder to see happen than we think. May you find an emotional place this year that feel like coming home to a haven. A may there be a permanence to the sense of contentment that comes to you as you grow in realizing this world is not your home. Another place is, when you turn to the governor of the heavenly home. And of His leadership there will be no end.

Blessings to you in 2021.

Wandering on Purpose, Mick

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