Let’s face it, it is absolutely impossible for us to understand an eternal transcendent God and his domain. It is far beyond our comprehension. So, we often use metaphor to make the incomprehensible accessible to us. Jesus did this exact thing when in John 14:2 he said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” (NRSV) This image of God’s dwelling place as a welcoming home with room for all who love him has resonated with Christians through the centuries.
One of the ways that this metaphor has resonated with me over the years is through the Audio Adrenaline song Big House. I’m often critical of CCM but I have always loved this song. In part, because the lyrics of the song reminded me of my childhood home. The chorus in particular reminded me of my earthly father’s home.
Come and go with me
To my Father’s house
Come and go with me
To my Father’s houseIt’s a big big house
With lots and lots a room
A big big table
With lots and lots of food
A big big yard
Where we can play football
A big big house
Its my Father’s house
It wasn’t a mansion but it was one of the larger homes in our rural community. It was a gathering place both for my friends and our church. We had innumerable gatherings and I spent hours enjoying the company of my friends. We often brought people with us to our house. In the dining room, there was a large table. The front yard was large enough for baseball, volleyball, soccer, football, just about anything we wanted to play.
For me personally, it was an anchor in this world. For over 40 years, it was the one constant in my life. The home base I could always count on. It, in many ways, was an earthly reminder of an eternal promise.
But, the problem with the earth is that, here, everything fails.
After my mother died and my father remarried, the house sat vacant for many years. Finally, at the end of 2017, my family moved into the home while I was working on my Ph.D. and trying to start a business. We had a written agreement to live there and take care of the home while I finished my Ph.D. and my wife finished her college degree. We even had an option to buy the home.
But, families can be complicated.
The following year, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My sister positioned herself to get control of my father’s resources. She spent tens of thousands of dollars of my father’s money to force us out of the home despite my father’s clear intentions and eventually forced our family of seven into homelessness.
Suddenly, this metaphor for God’s eternal kingdom was ruined in my mind. The Audio Adrenaline song I had so enjoyed and a reminder of my idyllic childhood and a vision forward to eternity became a raw reminder of greed and animus. A source of joy became a source of pain. The metaphor had failed.
It can be hard to see God when our metaphors fail. It is hard to see a loving God when we were born to an abusive one. It is hard to see an eternal paradise when our earthly one becomes an emblem of pain.
I don’t have great words of wisdom on how to see God when our metaphors fail other than to remember that the metaphors are not God himself. God is incomprehensibly good, true, and beautiful. He is infinite. Our metaphors, like us, are finite and of limited goodness, truth, and beauty. My Father’s house is not the same as my father’s house.
When I listen to this song that once gave me such joy, it is now sad and nostalgic. It is an upbeat facade that is a shadow of eternity and a reminder of earthly brokenness. But, it can still be a reminder that the incomplete joy I once experienced at my earthly father’s house will eventually be fulfilled in my eternal Father’s house.