We moved a lot when I was growing up. So I learned, early on, that home was something more than a house. It was people and a sense of belonging. This weekend reminded me of that truth, when I returned to Gordon College for Homecoming. Smiles and hugs, remembering and catching-up compressed the years and blessed the days. However, not all memories are good, when we come home. But places revisited, people reconnected become sacred second chances, laden with potential for healing, reconciliation and new beginnings.
Coming home began Thursday evening at the Margaret Jensen theater. Under Jeff Miller’s direction, Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble performed “THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG.”It was a creative, heart-stirring and mind-informing tour of hymn history, acted and sung. Imagine Fanny Crosby, blind from birth, hearing a tune and spontaneously putting words to what it sounded like to her. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine…this is MY story, this is MY song.” She lived for 95 years and wrote more than 8,000 hymns. The math’s staggering.
As I sang along, (not aloud), I felt, as I often do with hymns, “This IS MY story, this IS MY song.” I thought about times of questioning during my college years and other times of doubt and fear when they sang,
“Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt.
Fighting and fears within without,
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
And I remembered when I responded to those words sung in our small Baptist churches or by George Beverly Shea at a Billy Graham crusade. And I came, just as I was, and Jesus welcomed me. Still does.
Over the weekend, the usual happened: people honored, sports played, meals eaten, chapel attended, retired faculty remembered, class reunions celebrated, ribbons cut. But after all official events concluded, I suspect conversations centered on people not events.
Many years ago, Heather and Chad gave me a small wooden plaque. It read: Home is where the heart is. They knew I loved hearts but hopefully, they also knew home was them and Jud, not the house on Martel road, as much as we loved that place.
But looking back over the weekend, it was an off-handed comment by a student directing parking that God used to tend my soul. When I lowered my window to ask where I should park, he smiled and simply said, “I’ve been expecting you.” Once parked, I sat and wept. It was October 1st and would’ve been Jud’s 81st birthday. Here I was back at a place so familiar to us, a place of service, deep joy and a loving community. To be remembered and welcomed is no small matter. And so I wept at this place we loved to call home for the better part of 35 years. It felt so good to come home.
Someday, we’ll show up on heaven’s doorstep. Imagine, Jesus smiling and simply saying, “I’ve been expecting you.”
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