Home is Where Your God Is: A Brave Definition of Belonging

By Shawna Sullivan

God's Brave Women - Shawna's Story


Parked beside the bath tub on a black and white tiled floor in our New York City apartment, I sat and stared. My three children, five years old and under, splashed and squealed with delight in the water providing a stark contrast to my inward exhaustion.


Bath time for me was never simply a mechanism for cleanliness; it also allowed for a pause before reinforcement walked through the door. My fingers flipped through Southern Living magazine. This thoughtful subscription arrived as a gift from my mother, who knew after seven years in Manhattan my grieving heart missed all things “home”. While satisfying the craving for a taste of my former life, I was surprised when reading it sent my emotions in quite the opposite direction.


My eyes fell upon a two-page spread of the loveliest house I could imagine, surrounded by green space and blooming gardens. I felt a storm of emotions threaten to burst. Within seconds, my weary heart shattered into a million pieces causing a flood of tears to break free.


Inspecting the carefully curated landscape around the traditional Georgian farmhouse, I couldn’t help but compare it to the landscape outside my city window. Four awkwardly angled, bricked walls, streaked with soot, stretched upward to reveal a pie-shaped sliver of sky. As hard as I tried, no green could be seen in any direction.


I glanced at my children and thought to myself, “What are we doing here?”


Growing up I called multiple states home. My family moved as often as the seasons changed it seemed. No matter where we lived, however, the recipe of home included the same key ingredients: family, a backyard, air-conditioning, and a laundry room to name a few.


Over time, this recipe painted a picture of expectation in my heart, and defined what home should look like for my own family. So, when I found myself in New York City without these familiar comforts, my vision waned and disappointment grew. My heart didn’t have a placeholder for motherhood in a city so far from home.


“Why don’t you smile anymore, Mommy,” my five-year-old asked one morning over breakfast.


Her words formed a mirror, and I was forced to stare at my joyless reflection face to face. If anything was clear that day, it was that I needed a new definition of “home”.


“Why don’t you smile anymore, Mommy,” my five-year-old asked one morning over breakfast. Her words formed a mirror, and I was forced to stare at my joyless reflection face to face. If anything was clear that day, it was that I needed a new definition of “home.”


Fear and anxiety gripped my heart as I thought about how to raise children in an unfamiliar setting, some 1,400 miles away from my own family. But for my three children, this was their home for now, and I was being called to bravely embrace it.


God used multiple people and events in that season to reveal idols that threatened my joy. These unfulfilled longings secured the feeling that life was “on hold” because my life didn’t look the way I expected. This mindset prevented me from moving forward, trusting God, and embracing the story He was writing with my life.


"These unfulfilled longings secured the feeling that life was “on hold” because my life didn’t look the way I expected. This mindset prevented me from moving forward, trusting God, and embracing the story He was writing with my life."

Following the pattern of confession by King David in Psalm 51, I began bravely confessing my own expectations and disappointments. Writing each one specifically name by name and line by line, the Lord graciously shifted the posture of my heart. I could feel my white-knuckled grip slowly release as I surrendered completely to Him.


As our family began to grow in New York City, I too slowly began to grow in gratitude despite the unfamiliar. Inconveniences were met with a deeper understanding of greater purpose, and I started to see our community with fresh eyes – a new family united in Christ.


Over the years, the definition of home continued to evolve. Pregnant with our fourth child, we said goodbye to New York City, and forged new relationships in a suburban setting. Then a few years later, home changed again with a move across the country. Through these transitions, I began to cling tightly to the truth from Deuteronomy 33:27 ESV, that “the eternal God is my dwelling place.”


Maybe your view today doesn’t match the gallery of desires or the list of expectations in your heart. Perhaps loss, grief and disappointment continue to taint your view of home in this season. Still, the invitation to embrace a new definition remains; home is more than a place, it is a Person.


"Home is more than a place, it is a Person."


Though green grass can be spotted through my window today, the fingers of my hands grip less tightly, knowing at any time He may call us elsewhere. Home has a new meaning; it is not one carefully curated based on current magazine trends, but one sovereignly painted by a living God who invites us to dwell with him.


When we become disenchanted with the picture that we have created for ourselves, only then are we free to bravely embrace the definition of home Christ purchased with his life. He is our dwelling place and our refuge, a safe place to call home.


"When we become disenchanted with the picture that we have created for ourselves, only then are we free to bravely embrace the definition of home Christ purchased with his life. He is our dwelling place and our refuge, a safe place to call home."


May we go where he sends, delight in where we are, and live for our forever home with him.