Since leaving Chicago, we are finally settling into a home in MD, and this past weekend, I got to unpack boxes of stuff that have been sitting in a garage for the past two and a half years. All of the boxes contained kitchenware – cups, plates, mugs, forks, knives, cooking utensils, and serving dishes. I spent a few hours awakening them from their cardboard slumber, unwrapping them like craft paper mummies.
The process was very nostalgic for me. As I opened each cocoon, I felt like a kid unwrapping Christmas gifts. I never realized that our kitchenware could be imbibed with so many memories: the two mugs Sarah and I got on our excursion to Mackinac Island (before kids); the flatware we received as wedding presents complete with the first chips I gave them doing the dishes. With each piece, I remembered a gathering, or an experience of a life lived in Chicago, now being reconditioned here in Maryland.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that there’s a difference between a house and a home. A house is the physical building standing on a particular location. It becomes a home as you give it meaning, making memories, and filling it with experiences. I never realized that a home is actually the cumulative collection of memories – I guess that’s why your first home is such a milestone in life. The memories from your first home actually move to the subsequent ones based on the artifacts of your former house. It sounds mystical, I know, but there’s something very powerful about the experience. Our MD house started becoming a home as I sat there in the garage, transfer kitchenware experiences from Chicago like a collection of Harry Potter-like horcruxes.
It’s a fitting image for this Advent season, and one that those dusty cardboard boxes amplified for me. More than any Advent past, I have been longing for the return of Jesus. I’m longing for home. I’m longing for my King to come and do away with injustice and suffering. I’m longing for him to make every wrong right. I can’t wait for the day when habitual sin is cast off, when people are finally and forever treated with the kind of dignity that image-bearing inherently gifts them with.
In many ways, my longings are very similar to the ones that reverberated from a nation under Roman rule, a people exiled to spiritual judgment, and a suffering creation longing for the fulfillment of the Promise of promises. Their longings were for a King, for God to send the promised servant. They were waiting for the whole cosmos to be filled with the presence of God himself, in such a way so as to make the house a home. And that home is being built on the cumulative memories of promises made, kept, and one day consummately fulfilled.
There was one missing piece from my domestic archaeological dig – my instant read meat thermometer (ok, it’s not specifically for meat, more like baking, but it’s fantastic for getting ribs cooked evenly and completely). It’s very special to me – there are so many fantastic bone-in prime rib meals, smoked baby back ribs gatherings that were made possible by that little gadget. It was the missing piece. I’m longing to have it in my hands. In a silly, but sever way, it will be the last piece in making our house a home (at least for me).
That’s what we await in Advent, the final piece – Jesus’ return. And while there’s an objective, cosmic, new creational kind of redemption in view, I am also experiencing the subjective, existential longing as well. There are very personal longings I have that only Jesus’ return will address: specific habitual sins, detailed situations of relational brokenness that I have no wisdom or power to undo, particular situations of injustice that make me so angry. They are my ‘meat thermometers’.
So come, Lord Jesus. Unpack the final boxes of our garage. Just as you came the first, move in once more, finally completing the renovation of this house into a home, culminating all the memories of what you have done with your consummate reign. And while you do that – for our good, and for your glory – if you could help me find that meat thermometer, I’d be really grateful.