3600 Wheeler St., Dallas, TX
The train arrived at 5:10, like it did every day on my way home. I claimed my usual seat and watched as the car filled with familiar faces of the public transit’s frequent riders. I used the rail service during seminary as a way to save money. The trip took an hour each way and required two connecting bus routes, but it helped with the bills. I normally spent the commute lost to my headphones or focused on Hebrew flashcards, but today I opted for the window, gazing drowsily through the rain-streaked glass.
On the nearby freeway, traffic crept along. Office buildings and public parks raced past my view. About halfway through the route, the track crested a slight swell where a number of billboards were strategically placed. One in particular caught my eye. It was for a waxing salon.
…I know, stay with me.
The giant canvas showed a birds-eye shot of a woman boasting smooth skin, gleaming white teeth, and a carefree posture, her body draped across the front seat of a classic convertible. Outlining her figure were the words, “Fancy a free wax?” As I looked, a longing overtook me—not for the woman or the waxing service, but for her world. She seemed to dwell in a place so free and pure, void of fear, suffering, and the anxieties I had come to know so well.
Less than a year into our marriage, my wife and I moved from Austin to Dallas so I could begin my seminary training. Doing so meant uprooting from a community of deep friendships, a church we loved, and a city in which we had invested years of our lives. But we had taken all the right steps. Through prayer and godly counsel, we received consistent affirmation that Dallas was the Lord’s will for our lives—we still believe that—but we were unprepared for what would follow.
By the end of my first semester, I had a perfect GPA and the attention of my professors. Nonetheless, anxiety and depression crept into our marriage to the tune of repeated hospital visits and a weariness that nagged at our souls. My daily routine resembled that of the train, propelled back and forth lifelessly along its route. Rather than the vibrant joy I expected, my achievements seemed only to create a distance that geography could not relieve—distance from my friends, my wife, my Lord.
Fancy a free wax?
As Eve and her Edenic frame drifted out of sight, I was wrenched back to my own world—dirty sidewalks, garbage dancing in the breeze, highways filled with angry drivers, the smell and squeeze of humidity. A homeless man lounged two rows up, his head lilting in rhythm to the train’s movement. I wore the invisible weights of research papers, preaching examinations, and midterms. Each a reminder of that all-too-familiar distance.
One stop before my own, the homeless man pulled himself to his feet and stumbled off the train. Yet, another homeless man remained. He was sitting in my seat.
When I think of my home in Austin, I don’t see my accomplishments. I see the faces of those I loved. They appear in scenes—roasting marshmallows in a backyard on a winter night, laughing over a cup of coffee, worshiping in a cramped sanctuary, dancing at my wedding ceremony, always together. In a box on one of my bookshelves sits a pile of handwritten notes from those friends wishing us well in our move and rejoicing in the friendship we had built. At every turn, my wife and I shared our lives through hard-fought relationships. But I had set aside relationships for a resume in our new home.
It’s strange coming to terms with exile. Like the rest of humanity, I am seeking a homeland, longing for a home. But home for me is more than merely a place. It must be peopled that we might bear together our longing for a better country—that heavenly one where God is preparing a city for his people to dwell in his presence.
As the train rolled to its final stop, I stepped off the platform, walked to my car, and drove the short distance home. I found my wife sitting in our living room, resting from a long day of work. Assignments weighed heavily in my backpack, but I slipped it off and set it aside. It could wait. My wife looked up as I settled in next to her on the couch and asked, “How was your day?”
Collin Huber is a professional writer and associate editor for Fathom Magazine. His writing has appeared at The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and For the Church. He and his wife, Brittany, live in Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter @JCollinHuber.
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.