I know they say you can’t go home again.
I just had to come back one last time.
Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam.
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine.
Up those stairs, in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar.
And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else,
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave.
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me.
“The House That Built Me” is a song recorded by Miranda Lambert in 2010. It’s said that when Lambert heard the lyrics, she reacted emotionally and immediately wanted to record the song for herself, despite it originally being intended for Blake Shelton. It’s a song that strikes a powerful chord about how it is that the past places we’ve lived and the experiences we’ve had have shaped us and continue to shape us throughout life.
The place where you grew up. The place you learned certain life skills. The place where certain experiences happened that are now sewn in the fabric of what makes you, you. The place that was home when you first struck out on your own—that little apartment or duplex. The place where your children were born and raised. The first home you purchased. The place you overcame struggle or strife. The place you lost someone dear to you. The place that brings you comfort and peace.
It’s funny how “a place,” even a house can have such a powerful hold on us. The smell of grandma’s house. The feel of the carpet in the living room where you watched cartoons on Saturday mornings when you were a kid. The memory of wrestling in the grass with your bothers in the front yard.
I’m blessed that my parents still live in my childhood home. I can still visit my old childhood haunts and show them to my own children. But, like me, I’m sure you’ve noticed that nothing’s ever quite the same… the memory our childhood home doesn’t always match the reality we find years later when we revisit those hallowed places. A lot of times, things seem so much smaller than what you remember from childhood.
Sometimes I wonder if these aches we feel—to have, hold and touch again the places and the things of the past that haunt our memories—aren’t but a symptom of the fact that we live in a world that was never meant to be so fleeting. After all, Adam and Eve were not built for death. They were given an Eden, a home that would not perish, fade, or pass away. The permanency of Eden drives home the tragedy that they lost it. I can only wonder at how Eden must have haunted their memories forever after.
I think, we’re all searching for our Eden in our own ways.
However, a Christian’s hope for Eden is not in vain. For all the times that we “go back home” or visit a childhood haunt, or get to walk through—like in Miranda’s song—the house that built us, we know that the day is coming when Eden will be restored and all will be set straight and right. It will be a day when we will look back and never again wonder “what could have been.” In our reading today, Jesus teaches his disciples the proper technique for building such a house–“You must build it upon a rock,” He says–for only then will it stand. Even when the wind and rain come and beat against that house, it will not fall. And, of course, the rock He is referring to is none other than, Himself, and His Word.
Do you build your life upon this Rock and the hope that is ours because of this Rock?
To hear Jesus tell of this, it’s easy for us—too easy, sometimes—to assume that the building process takes place only in the fairer weather of life, as if we only build when all is calm in life and any threat of storms seem far off and distant. But I’m not sure that is always how it happens. Our experience is such that, more often than not, we find ourselves building right, smack-dab in the midst of the storm of life, scrambling to build something on the rock to hang on to. We must build not just when clouds seem grey and the drizzle is on our face, but also when the winds are howling and the rain is pounding upon us. Life in this world is not easy—some days are fair others are storms—and so we must always build, lest we lose our hope.
A life that is not constantly built (renewed) in the Word is a life that is always in danger of being set adrift. Jesus doesn’t want that for any of us. But as we build upon the rock of His Word, we discover that His Word is actually the house that has built us and shaped us. His Word in Holy Baptism. His word that blesses and seeks and finds. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
What a blessing that Jesus concludes this very important sermon by picturing the secure future guaranteed to the wise disciple who hears His words and does them. He is the house that has always been our home. He is the house who even now prepares a home for us in heaven.
He is the house that built me.
Here is one of my favorite versions of “The House that Built Me”: