Prison, College, and the Circle of Life: God’s Purposes for the Here and Now

“I wish I was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” It was not the last time that [Bilbo Baggins] wished that!
The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien

For the past three and a half years, I have called Michigan my home. While other college freshmen counted down days until break, I made my nest on the third floor of my dorm and forgot to phone my mother. I stayed in Michigan over the summer and avoided going back to Illinois as much as possible.  As I prepare to graduate, however, I can see how God is preparing a place for me. I know I should temporarily return to my father’s house, and I actually look forward to it.

This Christmas break left me longing for the comforts of home. The food, the family, the freedom to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. Now, I’m weighed down with assignments. I am like a maple tree, and creativity is being drained out of me like syrup. Things I love like reading and writing have suddenly become mandatory. I woke up the first Friday of my last semester at Hope muttering, Why can’t I just go home?

Paul, two thousand years ago, must have asked himself the same thing. In fact, his letter to the Philippians shows a sort of homesick longing.

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account (Philippians 1:21-4).

I must sound completely absurd to compare my experience in College to Paul’s experience in prison. After all, I await graduation not execution.  I won’t disagree that the accommodations here are much nicer, but I think it is of some value to draw this parallel.  Our desire for home-cooked comfort ultimately points to our desire for God.

Perhaps the biggest comfort of home is to be known. To not have to explain oneself. And who knows us better than our Father? As the psalmist says in the 139, “Your eyes saw me before I was put together, and all the days of my life were written in Your book before any of them came to be.”  As a senior, I find myself fading into a crowd of unfamiliar faces. New students that will soon replace the old ones. This is the cycle that characterizes a four year college. This is a cycle that characterizes life as a whole. I don’t mean to sound morbid. I’m simply observing that this isn’t our permanent home and homesickness is completely understandable.

On the other hand, we must not neglect that God’s purpose for us here on earth.  As my college career winds down,  I must remember, first of all, that this is not a prison cell, and second that God has a plan for me here and now.   There’s a reason why we are not home yet.  We have a church to build.

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