Home, for me, is Utah. My happiest memories were made in this valley just west of the Wasatch Mountains — a stone’s throw from my favorite hikes, hangouts, and loved ones. This year I’ve had an opportunity to travel to some of the world’s most beautiful places, but nothing beats coming home. On the other hand, Utah is smoggy, always under construction, marred with temples built to false gods, and the winter can overstay its welcome. Utah is simultaneously not my home. Its best qualities are glimpses of my future home on the new earth and its worst qualities keep me hungering for more — something better.
In her new book, Home, Elyse Fitzpatrick calls this hunger “homesickness.” It’s feeling restless, nostalgic, and unsatisfied in our own home, knowing we’re made for some other place — namely heaven. Fitzpatrick, aware of the glaring limitations, does her best to describe this place — not by giving overly speculative details, but by exploring sweeping themes in Scripture.
One of the major themes is resurrection. Fitzpatrick challenges us to reimagine heaven as a REAL place — physical bodies on a physical earth. None of this bodiless, harps-on-a-cloud business. The Bible gives a better picture: the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our own resurrection, which means we’ll live with God and our fellow saints in time and space. Heaven isn’t just the place we go when we die, where our spirits await reunion with our bodies; ultimately, heaven will be right here on a redeemed earth, when everything is made new. (She actually spends a good chunk of time talking about the meaning of “new” and how amazing it’ll be to live in a place where nothing gets old.) The new earth will not be completely unrecognizable, in the same way that Jesus’ resurrected body shares similarities with his old body. This continuity gives us a lot to imagine in terms of what we’ll know, love, and remember once we get there — not to mention the countless new wonders we can’t even begin to imagine!
And then there’s this awesome chapter on the city of heaven. Fitzpatrick lingers here because of how many people imagine heaven being this sort of farmland — spacious and rural. John the Revelator makes it pretty clear that heaven is a city, not only in terms of architecture (think the enormous cubed metropolis described in Revelation 21) but also as the hotbed of culture and, most importantly, the gathering of PEOPLE. Of course, this will be unlike any city we’ve ever known, completely free from the sinful things that drive us away from cities today. But she wants us to really think about the “garden city” God himself describes in his Word. As someone who enjoys escaping into the mountains, Fitzpatrick did a good job of helping me look forward to life in the big city.
I really appreciate the chapter on suffering, which is a recurring theme throughout Home. Fitzpatrick admits she wrote this book following a time of intense personal and ministerial troubles. She needed a reminder of her future home. But because she feels like her sufferings pale in comparison to fellow believers in Christ, she includes testimonies from those whose faith persevered through various trials — including disease, divorce, and the death of loved ones — as they held onto the hope of heaven. The theme of suffering reminds the reader that life isn’t always rosy… but heaven will be.
Another treasure was chapter ten, which describes how the Church is a foretaste of heaven. If we’re doing it right, “the church should be a place where we get glimpses, whiffs, whispers of [heaven] from time to time.” Jesus speaks to us through his Word, the sermon, and becomes “accessible to our senses” through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I’m so thankful to be part of a church family that affirms that truth: each week foreshadows a greater communion to come, when we gather together with saints to worship God — only then it will be unhindered by sin.
For Fitzpatrick, writing this book was a reminder — the expectation of our future home. I think we all need that. We need books and pastors and friends to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon of heaven. We need to know SOMETHING of the place we’re headed — not only for ourselves, but also for the people looking for hope in all the wrong places. In either case, I think Home will help.