I grew up in a suburban town just north of Atlanta. 20 years ago, it wasn’t considered suburban- it was country. Miles and miles of farmland and chicken houses. But somehow it became the fastest growing county in America, literally. Forsyth County have received that title. For several years in a row. I digress…
My dad grew up here. My grandmother grew up here. So Cumming is still small to us. Despite the hundreds of new neighborhoods and schools and commercial developments, Cumming is still a small town to us Gravitts.
I recently went home to my doctor for a routine check up. This is a doctor that regularly tells me that he remembers when my mother told him on a ski trip that she was pregnant with me. That’s how long he’s been my doctor. His office is in an old house and the most advanced technology they utilize is a fax machine. I saw my high school theater teacher in the waiting room, and the nurse knows me by name (yes, just one nurse).
Anyway, as I was getting my physical he was asking about my mom and dad and brothers by name, remembering that Shaw is in school and Collin is married. He knows me. We are familiar with one another. He knows my medical history and my personal history. He knows about my parents’ divorce and the period of panic attacks that I suffered shortly after. He knows where I’m in school, where I’m working and who I’m dating.
After I left the doctor I went to a local biscuit place. As I’m driving on the roads that raised me, I pass my high school and was flooded with memories. The kind of memories that warm you. Of course there are painful memories from my 4 years at FCHS. Breakups, disappointments, but none of that mattered. I only remembered the fond times in the black box and hanging out in the parking lot and it made me smile. I get to Daisy’s, the tiny breakfast place that is run out of a trailer by the sweetest old woman and her band of happy workers. This place started accepting credit cards only a few years ago.I pull up to the “drive thru” and am greeted by a:
“Hi hon what can I get for you?”
Normally, people would be offended by this kind of informal greeting. But to me, it was a sign of respect. She saw me as kinfolk, not just another customer. We were familiar with one another, though I do not know her name, or her story, but that’s just how small towns work, right? You know each other, you’re family, whether you’re actually related or not.
There’s a certain feeling attached to going home. I wish there were a word to describe the emotion of it all, the peace, the rest, the ease of it. The familiarity of it. I am never afraid to come home. It’s a place of safety and refuge. The majority of my family lives within the boundaries of the county, within miles of each other.
There’s something reassuring about a doctor who knows you, roads that you could drive in your sleep, being considered as a part of a family, and knowing that you will always be accepted home no matter where you’ve been.
I was in a moment of prayer recently and felt timid to approach God. If I were honest, my prayer life had dwindled and there was room for improvement. I suddenly felt the need to grovel and apologize for my absence. I felt hesitant to approach my creator because I hadn’t kept in touch.
But then I realized- Jesus is my home.
I can approach him the same way I do when I visit my hometown. He knows me, in and out. He knows my story- the hard parts and the great parts. He considers me as a part of his family- forever. No matter how many times I do or don’t visit or call. I am always his. I can always expect open arms and comfort, rest, and peace in the presence of my Jesus.
We cannot be timid in the presence of God. We cannot be afraid of judgement- he welcomes us with gladness. He welcomes us because we are known, and loved, and pursued.
Being in the presence of God should feel like coming home. And regardless of your feelings towards home, whether you have a good relationship with your hometown like I do, or whether you’ve buried that a long time ago. Whether “home” evokes anger, resentment or joy, you can always find home in the presence of God.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set youa free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
You can wipe your feet at the door, you can leave sin and shame and guilt and hurt, because there is no condemnation for you and me. We can approach Jesus with freedom and peace because of the price that Jesus paid for our sins – death – so that we may be a part of God’s family forever, and call him “home.”