Illinois Journal–Songs of Home

written on 7/13/2002

This week we have been working on reformatting the hard drive of our computer and generally doing a certain amount of maintenance to it that has needed to be done. Because of that, both the writing and sending of this journal entry are a bit delayed.

Sorry.

But I have an even better excuse. This weekend, my family visited Erie.

My sister was getting married, and she would have killed me if I had not been there. And, of course, I love my sister very much and wanted very much to be there when she married the man that she loves. So, Wednesday evening, we drove out of Peoria and headed back to Erie.

I had been dreading this trip. We haven’t been in Peoria for even a month yet, and returning to Erie so soon to visit seemed like it would be painful, opening old wounds and inflicting homesickness all over again. Jay, my friend here in Peoria, thought otherwise. He said that the trip would be a time of healing and that it would bring some closure to our time in Erie.

Turns out that we were both right.

We made the drive in eleven hours, driving almost nonstop. I drove from 8:30 CDT until 7:00 EDT the next morning, when fear of passing out at the wheel made me turn over control of the van to my wife and try to get some sleep. I managed to get two hours or so before I awoke again. I spent all Thursday in a haze. I was utterly exhausted. I felt like I was sleepwalking through the day. That night, I slept for twelve hours. Crystal slept for fourteen. It helped.

The wedding was beautiful, of course, but I don’t really want to talk about that. To steal a quote from my mother, that’s someone else’s story. For me, the most significant occurrences of the weekend happened around the edges of the major events. So instead, I’d first like to talk about music. Here I could launch into an extended discourse on music, or even my own experience of music.

My earliest memories of music are Crosby, Stills & Nash and Modest Mussorgsky, with Peter, Paul & Mary following close behind. Somehow, I think that this says something about me. But I’m first going to talk about Rich Mullins.

Rich Mullins was a Christian musician who has written a number of excellent songs. “Awesome God� is perhaps the most famous. However, there are a number of other songs of his that I have grown to love and remember, and I heard them all over this weekend. And each of them seemed to be sent by God to me to remind me of His love and sovereign control.

We stayed at the Swanson home. They are friends of ours from the church in Erie, and Todd Swanson is an elder in the church. They were gone on vacation and offered to us the use of the house. This was about the best choice for us. We had several other relatives staying in town, and the family was running out of room. Also, we had much more space than we would have had if we had stayed at a hotel.

In the Swanson music collection I found the Rich Mullins album “Never Picture Perfect�. My mother owned this album, but I have never gotten around to buying my own copy. So it’s been several years since I’ve heard it. However, I remember quite a few of the songs on it, and I enjoyed being able to hear them again. And, in the providence of God, they all seemed to speak to me.

“The Love of God�
Here I’m tested
Made worthy
Tossed about
And lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

I remember that this song never used to make sense to me. In fact, I remember my brother asking my dad about this song. Actually, if I recall the conversation correctly, my brother was challenging my father to explain the song to him. The love of God? Raging? Furious? What in the world?

I think I understand now. At least I understand better. Sometimes the love of God is harsh and furious. Sometimes the love of God requires that He take one of his children and cast him far from his home and family. Sometimes the love of God requires that He is almost violent in order that He might bring about what is best for His child.

I know this. I’m feeling it right now.

But it was encouraging. Right now, life is hard. But God knows, and, in fact, He has made it hard because He loves me. For whatever reason, the road that I am taking now is the one that is best for me, and God has set me on this hard road because He loves me.

“Somewhere�
Somewhere
Beyond these reasons and beliefs
Somewhere
Beyond the passion and fatigue
I know You’re there
And that Your Spirit is leading me
Somewhere
Beyond all this
Someday
Well I don’t know when
But I know that You’re coming
Coming back again
And the earth will run away
And the sky filled with thundering
As it announces the day
Has finally arrived

“If I Stand�
If I stand, let me stand on the promise
That You will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to you
And if I sing, let me sing for the joy
That has borne in me these songs
And if I weep, let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

Home.

There is so much bound up in that one word. A feeling of warmth, of shelter, of love. Home is where you are safe, where your world is comfortable, where the people that love you are. Home is familiar. Home is food and a cozy bed. Home is my books and games, my computer and my swords.

Home is where the hard drive is. Home is where the heart is.

And when I was in Erie, I was missing home. And right there was the struggle. Where is home? It wasn’t in Erie anymore. But as I listened to the music, God reminded me that home isn’t in Peoria either. In fact, it isn’t anywhere on Earth.

Home is with Jesus.

The house in Peoria could burn down. Someone could steal my books. Someone could virus my computer. My family could die. My bed could be lumpy.

But Jesus…. Jesus is forever.

Rich Mullins is no longer with us. In the fall of 1997, he and a friend were driving in a Jeep to a benefit concert. On a highway near Peoria, the Jeep flipped and both Rich and his friend were ejected from the Jeep. An approaching truck swerved to avoid the Jeep and hit Rich. And now he has gone home to be with Jesus.

Gone home.

There are some days that I envy Rich Mullins. He was longing for his home up above, and now he is there.

But, you know what? I can be patient. Because I know that, someday, I’ll be going home too. Going home to a perfect home, a place of perfect shelter and comfort, the way that a mere house could never be. And when I’m there, I’ll see Jesus. And the roughness of the road and the struggle of the fight and the exhaustion of the journey will all fall away as I look into His face.

And it will all have been worth it.

There was one more song that touched me over this last weekend. It was a hymn that we sang at my sister’s wedding. It is called “Be Still, My Soul�, and the third stanza goes like this:

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away

I had to say goodbye to my parents again. It was even harder than the first time. Sunday evening we packed up, and I was making one more pass through the house to make sure that we weren’t forgetting anything. Or so I told myself. Actually, in part, I was stalling. I didn’t want to go.

So I ended up in the back yard, and Mom came back, looking for something that Arianna had left in the back. We walked out to the front together, Mom talking about how she was going to start weeding her flower beds and trimming back the jungle. Trying to keep control. It didn’t work. Weeping, she hurled herself into my arms and we clung to each other, sobbing. My
heart was torn apart.

When I started the van and pulled away, the CD player began to play, picking up in the middle of the CD where we had left off. It was another song by Rich Mullins, a song about the prairies giving glory to God. Once I had said that it was our new theme song, and it played as we drove away.

But tears eventually dry, and the long road still lay before us. We traveled all that night.

Once again, I drove for all the trip, with the exception of an hour’s nap.

We were trapped in a traffic jam in Ohio.

We crossed through Indiana.

We saw the sun rise over the plains of Illinois.

And finally, we rounded the bend and saw Peoria spread out before us. We drove to it. We crossed the river.

And it felt like coming home.

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