There is a photo my wife Lisa took that makes me think of home as a place where we grow and develop apart from the watching world. It is a secret place.
In the image I am sitting in the middle row on the passenger side of our minivan. I am holding a bottle of water and wearing a gray t-shirt. I look thin. I am on the verge of tears. A duffle of pill bottles and medical devices sits to my left, just out of the frame. The Vanderbilt Medical Center patient loading bay is in the background.
Earlier that week I had open-heart surgery. My sternum had not yet fused and was held together by five titanium wires. A six-inch scar ran down my chest, not yet healed. It took a few pain-filled minutes for me to get into that seat.
The tears, which did come, were on account of the fact that I was going home.
Right after my wife took this picture, she pulled away and drove the twenty-five minutes to our house, where our kids met us in the drive and helped me inside.
Lisa had been beside me as much as she could during my hospital stay, balancing her time there with the ongoing needs of our four children. It was summer, so they were out of school and home most of the time, as was my wife, who worked for the school district. Since I was on medical leave, we ended up spending most of that summer together as a family in that house. And because I was recovering, we did not have a lot of guests during that time. Kind folks brought us meals and said hello, but I didn’t have the energy for long visits. It was just us.
Never before or since has our family known a season where we were all home together for that long. It was sacred—not only for the gift of time, but because there inside those walls at 617 Crieve Lane, the six of us were all learning about frailty and strength—each in our own way, but very much together. We were all being shaped and were witnesses to the growth happening in one another.
The youngest kids barely understood the weight of what had happened to me. They didn’t know in my nightstand were letters I had written to them in case something went wrong. They did know they couldn’t climb on me like they used to and they felt it as a loss. The older kids, however, had to grow up a little ahead of schedule that summer. My oldest, our son, had to do tasks I once performed but no longer could—like carrying heavy things, reaching for stuff up high, watching his sisters when Lisa took me for doctor appointments, and watching me when she ran for groceries.
I lamented how my family had to carry the weight of my season of affliction. But I also thanked God for them and for that season where it was just us. We came to love each other in ways we had not known before. My weakness and need revealed in each of them various fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In those walls that summer we all grew. We all changed. And we did it with each other. We shared experiences, pains, confusion, and hope that the outside world will never know. This is the nature of home.
Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003). Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.
Welcome to a guest series I’m calling, “Home: Musings and Memories.” I’ve invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in part, because I’ve just released a book called, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, May 2017). I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment.
The story of Jesus is a home story.
Thanks for joining me and these other fantastic writers in our search for home—and the God who makes its hope possible.