Down South, some, instead of enquiring: “Where do you live?” -- more colloquially ask: “Where you stay?”
Places can be like friends – increasing our sense of “belonging.” Some places intensify (“be”) and satisfy our “longings.”
Connecting with such places, are we predisposed to nostalgia?
Surprisingly, “nostalgia” comes from Greek, “nostos” = “homecoming” + “algia” = “pain, distress” (see, “fibromy-algia”).
Hofer (1669 -1752) coined “nostalgia.” Hofer wanted a word like German “heimweh.” “Heim” = “home” + “weh” = “woe.” For Hofer, “nostalgia” was a disease: “a morbid longing for one’s native country, severe homesickness.”
Friend, would he have us be perpetual aliens?
However, Scripture reveals danger lurks in some habitats.
First, Jesus warns Pergamum’s Church, Revelation 2:13: “I know where you “live” – where Satan has his throne.” Ouch!
Conspicuously, “live” is not the common Greek word for “to live” - “oikéō” which refers to family, family property, or the family’s house. Good enough.
Instead, Revelation 2:13 uses “katoikéō” – where “katá,” intensifies “oikéō.” “Katoikéō” means “settled down,” "to be exactly at home." Like grandparents with grand babies, some dwelling places affect us deeply. “Katoikéō” (we’ll simplify it to “Ko”) is a place playing melodies on our heart strings.
Friend, where are you “Ko-ing”?
Another place the Bible warns us of is literally a lethal place. Peter prayed none would “Ko” where Judas committed suicide (Acts 1:20). Sober spiritual/physical warning.
God forbid our brokenness leads us to “Ko” where “Satan has his throne.” God, move us on. God, despite our being temporarily deceived, show us “things” are “off.”
Greeks showed such an about-face by using the prefix “a.” “A” flips what follows. Here are three examples.
“A” – flips “sotia” – “salvation.” Paul writes: Ephesians 4:18 – “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to ‘asotia.’ Instead, be being filled with the Spirit.” Aha, if we make intoxication our home, we cut ourselves off from the universe of God’s Spirit.
Secondly, putting “a” with “nomos” (God’s character, law), we get “anomian” – “lawlessness.” For many, “lawlessness” kills love (Mt. 24:12). Deadly!
In English, putting “a” with God-formed passions, we get “apathy,” another dangerous home.
Friend, when these sirens call us to “Ko” with them, let’s ask God to help us escape. He can give us new desires, a new return address.
Reconsidering our earthly home
We live in a spiritual/material world. God made a lot of matter. He beautified much of it. Even beneath the surface of what we call ugly can be hidden splendor.
Made in God’s image, let’s connect with him and his creation. God linked us to his handiwork in a way that captivates us – makes us “nostalgic” for “home.”
For example, although my wife and I took a twelve-year hiatus in SC and an eighteen-year-long one in NC – and although we enjoyed the wonders of those states – in 2006, we were especially happy to come back West. For reasons we can articulate and ones we cannot, we felt more at home here.
Most likely, you too have a “home/niche.”
Scripture describing our earthly home
Our yearning to connect with a place can come from God. “Ko” is Paul’s theme as he speaks to leading Athenians.
Acts 17:24 “God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not “Ko” in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26From one man he made every nation of mankind to “Ko” on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted ‘periods’ (‘kairos’ – not impersonal ‘chronos’ measured time – but purposeful ‘kairos’ time) and the boundaries of their “Ko”, 27that they should seek God, and perhaps ‘feel’(‘palpate’) their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
What a passage to reread/ruminate.
God wants us to “bond with”/“Ko,” places he created, with places where we live. He has “determined and allotted” our time within the “boundaries” where we “Ko.” Divine!
F. Scott Fitzgerald, in “The Great Gatsby,” put it this way: People “must have held (their) breath in the presence of this (place) - compelled into an aesthetic contemplation…face to face…with something commensurate to (their) capacity for wonder.”
Friend, as God connects us with places, we marvel, putting-down-roots/belonging.
For example, in Lander, WY, I met some former students from the Catholic college there. Place-enthralled, after college some relocated from around the world to live in Lander.
Paul informs us, through such places God is stirring us to feel our way toward him!
'Ko' and Jesus
Paul reveals God’s enthusiasm in Colossians 1:19: “God was well-pleased to have all(!) his fullness(!) ‘Ko’ in” Jesus. God, God(!), completely at home in Jesus. Wonder of wonders!
Matthew. 4:13 shows us Jesus getting involved in a new community. “Leaving Nazareth (his humble hometown) he went and “Ko-ed” in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.”
Why “Ko” in a difficult place? Matthew 4:14“So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15’The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people ‘dwelling’ (“kathemenos,” another strong word like “Ko”) in darkness have seen a great light, and for those ‘dwelling’ (“kathemenos”) in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’” Well done, Jesus. Brilliant transformation!
Jesus’ light also comes to challenging people, us. Paul prays: Ephesians 3:17 – “May Christ “Ko” in your hearts through faith.” Aha, faith is an open door to Jesus Ko-ing with us.
Finally, if we sing: “This world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through,” we remember 2 Peter 3:13: “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the “Ko” of righteousness.”
Christian, and those who will believe, through Jesus we’ll love putting down roots forever in a new heaven and new earth, celebrating God’s character. Home!
Steve Bostrom, is ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America. To contact him, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.