I come from a Christian tradition that put a lot of stock in going to heaven when we die. In fact, heaven—not life on earth—was considered the real home. Such a great emphasis was put on heaven, though, that I felt not enough attention was given to life here and now. Focusing on heaven-when-I-die can encourage passivity and fatalism when it comes to life in this world. I’m not as likely to expend energy turning this world into a better place.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven/God is here, now. And as a Christian I do believe in heaven (though I would never try to describe or explain it), but I’m convinced that God wants my attention to the present moment so that I can help make God’s reality manifest in my life here and now.
So, how much should I allow my here-and-now life to become my reference for “home”? The two obvious options:
- I don’t consider this my real home. After I die, there will be eternity with God, so why trouble myself about this life? No need to worry over house and other possessions, or how I look, or what status I achieve. None of it will be that important in the end. And Jesus did say that we should store up treasure in heaven, where nothing rots away or is stolen. And we should not worry about what we’ll eat and drink and wear and own. Always, we must put first priority on doing God’s work in the world, and often that means we will be uncomfortable, even do without our luxuries. Many of the great spiritual leaders owned little or nothing and gave up comforts of home for the sake of their life callings. Shouldn’t each of us consider that possibility?
- I do attach myself to this life and call it home. After all, this is what I am given—it is a gift, and I want to honor the gift of my life by enjoying it to the fullest. So I take pleasure in making my home a beautiful and welcoming place. I lovingly prepare meals for family and friends. I try to travel and see as much of this world as I can, to enjoy its wonders. I do have possessions, and I enjoy them but also share them. In fact, I try to help others enjoy a satisfying life here, too—helping them eat and find shelter and meaningful work. To look past my daily life and consider those details unimportant would be a gross expression of ingratitude.
To be honest, I definitely veer toward the second option. One struggle for me is the tendency to become too attached to clothing, mementos, good meals, and vacation. I love my house and always have a list of home improvements to make. It’s safe to say that, in the vocabulary of St. Ignatius of Loyola, my attachment to these forms of “home” is at times unhealthy, even sinful. And, really, I don’t think about heaven much. I like my life here and I’m in no hurry to leave it. I don’t know what heaven is, or what truly awaits me after physical death. That “home” is not a particularly comforting thought to me.
I suppose we can look to our spiritual mentors for help with this. Some of the people I admire have nicer homes and more luxurious lives than I do. But they work hard to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Many people who have lovely earthly homes offer them as gifts of hospitality to others. Then there are the spiritually beautiful people who barely have a place to lay their heads, who depend on others for their physical comforts, and who have few home-like attachments. It seems that there’s a place for both homes—the present one and the more ethereal and eternal one.
How does your faith influence the way you think of “home” and relate to it?