Friday and Saturday I was blessed with the opportunity to go back to my first home-away-from-home, my little town of Auburn. I got to go back to the place where I did the most learning, growing, loving, laughing, and crying in the shortest amount of time. Auburn University’s theme is that everyone in Auburn is a family. The students and teachers and alumni are all family. They say you don’t understand until you live it, and I’ll say that I didn’t understand it fully until I lived it and left it.
I got to go back last weekend and fit right back into the groove, into the place that I felt that I fit almost perfectly. From the second we drove into town, I felt like I was home. Really, I have a few homes. I have my home where I was born and raised, then I have my Auburn home, and now I have my new-family home. I love all of these homes. But there’s something about the one I took myself to, not knowing that I would always feel a tug on my heart in that direction.
Going to school at Auburn was an exciting new experience that I’m ever-thankful I had the opportunity to do. I saw firsthand the reasons everyone says “I believe in Auburn and love it,” and I’ll more than willingly say it myself.
But my favorite part wasn’t just Auburn’s family theme. It was that I had such a large portion of my spiritual family surrounding me, too. My favorite memories and lessons weren’t the ones I learned in class, they were the ones I learned with my friends, with my Christian brothers (plus my biological one), sisters, and with myself. The kind you can only get from really living your life – from learning yourself through your own mistakes and discoveries. There’s always a place associated with these lessons. A place where you learned it or realized it or found it or lost it. The places where you saw with new eyes and made the changes or let them be. Places inside the big-place where you completely decided who you were.
One of those places was the building where I worshiped every Sunday and Wednesday and some days in between. It was where I truly understood the meaning of church, truly understood why the church is my family. It’s where I got to spend most of my weekend with most of my people growing and loving even more. An all-too-familiar place where I’ll always feel I can go back to. I made a few realizations while I was there:
1. No matter how far you go or how long you’re gone, spiritual family welcomes you back.
I saw people I loved, most of whom I hadn’t seen in at least eight months, some in six, some in a little less. They each overwhelmed me with hugs and “how are you” and “I haven’t seen you in so long.” We studied together, prayed together, sang together, ate together, and after that we played games together. It was just like always and just like it should be. And just like my Christmas it was exhausting in only the best way.
2. God’s things never change.
No matter what’s going on in the world or in my world, worshiping God and fellowship with His people will not be different. We do it how He wants it every time, and every time it’s just as perfect because it comes from Him. Praising God doesn’t change because I move; His word doesn’t change just because the people do. We praise Him here, and we’ll praise Him forever. I got a small glimpse of heaven this weekend and a strong desire to be there with each and every person in the room.
3. Learning doesn’t stop just because you grow up a little.
When I went to my Auburn home almost five years ago, I didn’t imagine that by the time I was a year older I would have learned as much as I did – about life and about God. When I was a year older I couldn’t have imagined I would have learned as much as I have today, but it truly doesn’t stop. No matter how many times I open my Bible, I see something I didn’t notice before. No matter how many lessons I hear about the same Bible story, I always get a better understanding. The Word of God always has more to reveal than you think.
4. None of these homes are really my home.
No matter how much I love a city or a town, and no matter how much I invest myself in it and in the people there, it will never be my home. This world isn’t even my home. Heaven is my home. We were all made with an eternal soul, pattered in God’s image, truly meant to be with Him – not on earth. That fitting in “almost perfectly” feeling? I’m not supposed to feel like I perfectly fit in because I don’t. I didn’t really fit in in Auburn, even if it was one of the best comfort places on earth. We won’t ever fit in until we’re completely devoted to God, until we’re with Him eternally. That’s why my spiritual family makes me feel at home – because they’re my true brothers and sisters. Anywhere I go where there are God’s people, all together praising God, that’s when I can fit in. That’s when I can be who I was really meant to be.
So as I was sitting in the room, surrounded by spiritual family, all singing praises to our Father, I realized why I love this one place so much. I love it because it’s the place I chose to grow, my most significant place of growth in Christ. It holds a special place in my heart for the love I found and the realizations I made – for the people and relationships and adventures and experiences. It taught me that it isn’t, and will never truly be my home. For that I’m thankful.