Winter 2011 #7
By this time tomorrow Paradise will be ours!
For two years we have been tenants at this striking address: a home amongst houses, a dwelling that ministers security to every level of our lives: body, soul and spirit. When my Favourite Wife first came here I was in hospital, 600km away, and I well remember her excited text message: I think I’ve found our home! She signed the lease the very same day.
The loss of a home we had owned and the loss of my job had led to our move south, to a new town on banks of the Murray River. An Occupational Therapist gave us a list of things to look for, and the real estate agents found the place they thought would fit the bill.
A level home, gracefully designed, beside a lightly timbered hill-side in a quiet cul-de-sac. Bay windows face due north, catching every drop of winter sun, shaded by luxurious grape vines through the summer. It is impossible not to be drawn into Paradise. Friends and visitors remark on its warmth, and on its fabulous setting. Small details confirmed to us (in that ‘signs and wonders’ style to which I am deeply attached!) that we were in the right place. The street we drive up is called “Balmoral”, the name of our favourite beach, on which my Best Girl and I grew up as kids. The house has just one key which opens every door – a feature that I had built into our former house at some expense because our Little One will wander, and we must lock every door. A line of Silver Princess Gums, a favourite tree, wanders through the block. And we have a glorious view: our Kangaroo-spotted hill during the day; and the twinkling lights of the town below at night. It brings to mind a saying from a good friend’s South African family: “Somewhere to look away from your breakfast”.
It was on the very night of our daughter’s wedding, just weeks ago, that we received the valuation certificate by email, and learned that the house was within our reach. After a glorious day together fourteen members of our family were gathered around our dining table and we celebrated this unexpected, amazing news together.
The story that ends tomorrow began years ago, when I took out life insurance as an invincible, younger man, with little serious thought for the future. From memory a close friend suggested a figure, and it seemed like a plan. That figure turned out to be exactly the price of Paradise, to the dollar! Now, who could have orchestrated that? I marvel that we have arrived here. Amidst the great challenges we face, my family and I continue to find Providence by our side.
Earlier this year I heard a Jewish man in a BBC documentary recount the strange story of his return to the home of his childhood. The family’s home in Izbicz, Poland, had been abandoned in a futile attempt to escape the Nazi invasion. The boy, Thomas Blatt, survived the death camps, and half a century later he revisited his former home. Blatt told of finding furniture in the house that remained from his childhood, and then described the current occupant’s suspicious, nervous accusation that Blatt was there only to find his Jewish family’s hidden gold. The owner proposed a 50/50 split. Blatt took one brief look around, and left without a word. He went back just once more, some years on, to find the house a demolished, uninhabited shell. Neighbours explained that after his first visit the owner became obsessed, possessed even, searching day and night for the mythical stash of treasure, until he finally destroyed his home. In jealousy and greed he ravaged his own future.
A strange story to tell at a moment like this perhaps, and I don’t count myself to be above any of the motives in this evocative tale of greed. But it provides a vivid counterpoint to our experience of abundant grace. Here we are in Paradise, having been given more than we can imagine; but the true value of our home is not in its title deeds, or its elegance, or even its glorious view. Who we have, not what we have, will always matter most.
Half of me doesn’t want tomorrow to come, and the other half just can’t wait! The anticipation is delicious, and the imagery irresistible. Paradise lies ahead of us, the best is yet to come.