It was thirty years ago today that my father went home. We often use the word “home” as a euphemism for dying. And that’s part of what I mean. Dad had a massive heart attack that day and was gone—all we had left was his body. The triune God had his soul.
It’s the latter point I’d like to chase. Dad surprised me just a year and a half before he died by pulling to the curbside on a secondary road leading out of Chicago. We were in Illinois to attend my seminary graduation and to visit friends and relatives in the area. Mom and Dad met and married in Wheaton, just west of Chicago, so this was their early turf. The three of us were enjoying some sight seeing and a set of reunions.
Dad pointed to a nondescript cinderblock building next to a local airfield. A Cessna or two and a Piper Cub were parked alongside the modest runway. The building was a small hanger and office structure. Dad had flown from this field when he was a young man.
“That’s where your uncle Harry introduced me to Jesus.”
I was startled. Dad had never mentioned when or how he came to faith so this was news to me! He went on to tell the story of how Harry, who married Dad’s oldest sister, asked him when he had become a Christian.
Dad didn’t have an answer. His family was a church-attending clan so everyone assumed he was a Christian. But not Harry. And after a brief conversation Dad prayed and gave his heart to Jesus.
So today I’m thinking of verses from Colossians 3:1-3—“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
The story Dad shared that afternoon—and the life he lived as an adult—assured me that Dad is now at home. And it helps me reorder my own priorities—to set my mind on eternity instead of seeking to be comfortable in this life.
I’m now a year older than Dad was when he died. We expected him to live a lot longer. That was certainly a possibility—last month his twin brother, Gene, celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday. But as much as our family still misses Dad I’m reminded that this life is really just a mist. And once we believers arrive at home with Jesus we’ll certainly wonder why we made so much fuss about this brief phase of life.
This era, after all, is broken. God’s justice is despised and his loving-kindness disregarded. Paul’s reflection on this tension is worth recalling: “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:6-9).
Yet many of us still long for success in this life—and human accolades still drive us. It’s hard to actually set our minds on the things above, where Christ is waiting for us to catch up with him.
But my father knows all that by now. He’s been enjoying his time with Christ in glory for three decades. And his priorities are now reordered and aligned with the truth of Christ’s eternal reign at his Father’s right hand.
I’m sure Dad is enjoying it. And I know, too, I’ve already died with Christ—even if I’m still alive in this fading body—and that spiritually I’m seated with him at the Father’s right hand.
But as much as that’s true I still look forward to joining Dad “at home” when the time comes for us to enjoy it together.