It was the summer of 1991 and I was sitting on the front porch of a house on Maple Avenue in Washington, Pennsylvania. Michelle and I lived in the upstairs apartment and my friend, Elliott, had come over for a visit. As we sat there, watching and listening to the world around us, we drank some beer and talked about life. See, Michelle and I had just recently been married and we were asking all of those, “What will our life be like?” questions.
As we were talking, Elliott shared something very profound. As Elliott often did. For he has always been a very deep well of profound insight. Over the years he has introduced me to many things, for which I will be forever grateful.
At one of those breaks in our conversation, you know the after seven minutes there is silence phenomenon, he looked at me and stated, “This is only a phase.” “I mean, you don’t end up here.” The statement was so profound that I was unable to totally and completely comprehend its complexity and prophecy all in that moment.
“Of course.” I blurted out. For Maple Avenue was an older, slightly run-down neighborhood, that worked very well for a young, newly married couple who were just starting out their lives together. This wasn’t the place that we saw ourselves putting down roots and raising our future family.
I didn’t think much about what Elliott had shared until June of 2000. That is when Michelle and I moved to Venice, Florida with two kids, a dog, a cat and Rosy the little red car in tow. We were starting a new “phase” in the story of our lives. Little did I know, harkening back to Elliott’s words nine years earlier on the front porch on Maple Avenue, that this “phase” would be far more permanent. For I am writing these words twenty-one years later and we are still in Venice, still in the same house.
In the nine years between Elliott’s statement and our move to Venice we had lived in five different houses. Our oldest daughter, McKenzie, attended five different schools. And we worshiped at six different churches. “Phase” was the name of our family’s game! But all of that, all of a sudden, changed.
We pulled into our new house late on a Saturday night. It was June 17 and the following day was Father’s Day. It would also be my first Sunday preaching at a new church. The seventh church in which our family would worship during this nine year “phase”.
I mentioned that we had a dog. His name was Cassidy. Well, he needed to take a walk. So off I went down the street before we even thought about unpacking anything out of the back of the truck. Cassidy walked, sniffed, peed and pooped his way to the stop sign at the end of our street. When we turned around to head back to the house, I had this feeling wash over me. A feeling that I had never felt before, but at that same time felt very familiar. All of a sudden, the words “We are home” came out of my mouth.
God rewound my memory nine years and placed me back on that front porch on Maple Avenue with Elliott. As if narrating this memory, God told me that our life of the unending “phase” was settling down into simply our life. We had finally arrived and as I looked around all I could see, hear, think about and dream of was not, “What will our life be like”. But, “This is our life.”
This was different and I knew it. No more “phase”. No more transition. Just living life. For me, this is what it means to truly be home.
I ponder all of this not to pass judgement on any “phase” of my life. I ponder all of this because I saw a TikTok that my daughter posted. It showed a picture of her as a child and then it morphed into a picture of her today. I remembered the picture from her childhood and, of course, I recognized her picture today. The picture from her childhood was taken during this nine year “phase”. Her current picture was taken in the classroom in which she now teaches. I wouldn’t trade any “phase” of our life. But this TikTok got me thinking.
Oh, how differently I see and experience life now, as opposed to that nine year “phase”. And, also how differently my daughter sees her life today, compared to back in that nine year “phase”. Then Niagara Falls came flowing from my eyes. I thought about the future, when she would be the one looking back upon every “phase” of her life. What will she think? What will she remember? What will her life be like? As I ask that last question something occurs to me. I now realize that I am writing all of this because I have officially recognized the new “phase” of my life.