Oftentimes, when I am alone in the car or on my golf cart, I will find myself humming (or singing) some tune that just popped into my head. The other day one of those songs I have not sung in years came to mind, and I found myself singing — I was in my golf cart and everyone I encountered looked at me funny — at the top of my lungs: “This world is not my home/ I’m just a-passing through/ My treasures are laid up/ Somewhere beyond the blue/ The angels beckon me/ From heaven’s open door/ And I can’t feel at home/ In this world anymore/ Oh Lord, you know/ I have no friend like you/ If heaven’s not my home/ Then Lord, what will I do?/ The angels beckon me/ From heaven’s open door/ And I can’t feel at home/ In this world anymore.”
That song always brings back a memory from almost 30 years ago: My family and I had just made a move to southwestern Ohio after a series of ministries that lasted from three to five years each. Hillsboro, Ohio, the town we moved into, was about 70 miles from the town in which I spent my youth and 10 years. On one Saturday not too long after we had settled into our new home, we packed the kids into the car and drove the 70 miles to Jackson.
Once we arrived there, we cruised throughout the town to the places I had “haunted” while growing up. We went past both of the houses in which I had lived, the elementary schools I attended, and the high school that was now changed into the middle school. We drove past numerous homes of friends and people I knew still lived there, and ate a famous “Jackson County Veal” sandwich at The Shake Shoppe, a drive-in restaurant that I had frequented during my teen years. After that experience at The Shake Shoppe, we headed back to our new home in Hillsboro.
During the return drive back we were discussing what all we had seen that day, and I was sharing with my bride and kids some of the many childhood memories that had been refreshed by going there. We had almost arrived back at our new home when my daughter, who was entering her sophomore year in high school in just a few days, stopped me in my tracks with a very serious question: “Dad, where is my Jackson?”
That question caught me off guard, although I should have anticipated it. For, you see, in her short life we had moved eight times in five different cities, and she had been in five different schools (and churches, I might add). She had seen how I sort of relished in the place I had grown up in and at that point at least did not feel like she had such a place like that in her life. That very question prompted me, tearfully, to reply, “Hopefully, hon, Hillsboro will become your Jackson.”
But in another very real sense, our home is neither Hillsboro nor Jackson. The Jim Reeves song is correct — this world is not my home. Heaven is the home for all who know Jesus Christ personally. Here on earth, I am “just a-passing through.” And everybody knows that there’s no place like home.
Not long ago, I was reading in one of those devotional books that seem to be everywhere. One devotional particularly caught my attention: A tourist was once travelling through the area where the famed Rabbi Hofetz Chaim was living. Being a great admirer of the rabbi, he made inquiries whether he could visit the rabbi at his home. He soon got a reply that he was welcome to visit the rabbi anytime.
The young tourist thereafter arrived at the rabbi’s home with much excitement. Upon reaching the simple one-roomed house, he was asked to enter. Upon entering, to his amazement he saw only a table, a lamp and a cot, besides many books, inside the house. Surprised by what he saw, the tourist inquired, “Rabbi, where is the rest of your furniture?”
Rabbi Chaim calmly replied, “Where is yours?”
Puzzled by the rabbi’s response, the tourist replied, “My furniture? But I’m only a visitor here.”
The wise rabbi then replied, “So am I.”
That young tourist learned the valuable and powerful lesson that day that God’s people are only pilgrims on this earth. When we sing that song, “This world is not our home,” we agree with Peter who addresses the Christians as “foreigners and aliens” (1 Peter 2:11). Therefore, since we are “foreigners and strangers on earth” (Heb. 11:13), the Apostle Paul advises us, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2).
Hillsboro did become my daughter’s Jackson. We lived there for 23 years, but our goals should be even higher. So let me ask you: Where is your home?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].