A House is not a Home

You may have noticed that you haven’t seen a post from me here at Coastland Commons in over two months. Sorry about that. But the “why” of this is what I want, maybe need, to share about today.

My last post described the feeling of Jesus slipping through my fingers like sand. So here’s an update.

The sand is gone. My hands are empty. I stopped fighting and grasping. And let me tell you, this is a strange place to be.

The sand started trickling about a year and a half ago in a class that I was taking for seminary. Though the class was specifically about theology and race, I found myself unable to understand the implications of what we were learning for the entirety of my faith as well as the rest of my life.

I learned to see God beyond binary categories of either/or. This started with categories like white/black and Jew/Gentile. But I quickly began asking questions about other binaries...like sinfulness/righteousness and human/divine. In the person of Jesus, our binary categories are bound together in such a way that not only do the two become one but they become dependent on each other. This is like the South African idea of ubuntu, I am because we are. I cannot comprehend my own existence without the existence of the Other. I need the Other (whoever “Other” may be).

This change in my faith was welcome, at first. I walked out of that class with my mind blown but my soul filled. I knew God more deeply, I loved Jesus more wholly, and I found a stronger connection to the humanity around me.

Somewhere between that class and today, things shifted. My expanding view of God got so big that I wasn’t sure where the edges were anymore. The walls in my little Christian house began to buckle. I haven’t been sure that God still lives here.

I feel a little bit like what I imagine David felt like as we pick up his story this week. Last week, he was dancing in the streets proclaiming that God was doing something new with him as king, that it would be different than it was with Saul. When we meet him in chapter 7, David is settled into his house and the Lord has given him rest. But David isn’t actually feeling restful. He points out to his prophet Nathan that he lives in a cedar (the finest of woods) house now, but God lives in a tent. David is worried that the presence of God can’t be with him in this new place, he wants to build God a better place to live. And Nathan says, “go for it!”

But then Nathan hears a message from God that he is to relay to David.

God seems to scoff at the idea of David building a house for God to live in. God reminds David how God was among the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert, that they had a tent and a tabernacle. The house didn’t matter, the point was that God was with the people. Then David is reminded of how God was present with him wherever he had gone, and that God will continue to be present to all of David’s offspring. God found a place for Israel to dwell, and God declares that God will make a house for David.

God is not so much concerned about how lovely a house David can build. God is going to be wherever David is.

The hardest part of this change in my life and in my faith has been feeling like I am losing a huge part of my identity. I have understood myself within the context of the Christian narrative for so long. The most important people in my life I met because of our mutual faith. This change in my faith has brought up feelings of dislocation, disorientation and even alienation.

True confession: I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to have to read Scripture, let alone come up with something interesting to say about it. But I decided to look at the passage anyway. I’m glad I did.

The beautiful, hard-fought, open-doored house I had built for God has officially crumbled. I have been wondering where that leaves me. For a while it felt like it left me alone, stranded in this now empty space.

But maybe that’s not true. Maybe God is still with me. Maybe the house God wants to build is bigger than I imagined. Maybe the crumbled walls of the house I created have exposed me to the light, to the fresh air, to all kinds of life that I hadn’t known was there. Maybe Jesus is even still there. I hope he is. I kind of like that guy.