One of the most beloved films of all time is the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” Long after its theatrical release this film became a favorite of generations of Americans due to its extensive airing on broadcast television. The story is an entertaining mix of fantasy, humor, and the traditional values of right and wrong and personal responsibility that used to be the stock in trade of the film industry. There is just enough danger and suspense to keep the audience’s attention and it concludes with the once typical happily-ever-after ending.
A key element in the film’s story is Dorothy’s consuming desire to go home. Although Oz is an amazingly beautiful place, conveyed by being filmed in color versus the black and white of the opening and closing sequences, Dorothy just wants to go home. Her magical adventure, her wonderful new friends, and her victory over the wicked witch are not enough to satisfy her. She would gladly trade all of Oz’s delights just to be home once again with her family.
It may surprise us to learn that the great apostle Paul, as he neared the end of his ministry, had the same feelings that Dorothy expressed. He just wanted to go home, but he had something substantially different in mind than Dorothy did. As he awaited an audience with Caesar in Rome, Paul wrote to the church in Philippi and told them of his dilemma. In Phil. 1:23-24 he said, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
Paul’s ancestral home was in Tarsus in Cilicia, but that’s not where he wanted to go. For Paul, home was being in the presence of the Lord. Even though he was doing some of the most important work a man could possibly do; even though he was highly regarded among the brethren all over the Roman Empire; and even though he continued efforts were so needed by the church, Paul just wanted to go home. We can imagine Paul, like Dorothy, saying, “There’s no place like home.”
We may wonder how he could have such a desire to go to a place he had never been, and to think of this unknown place as home. Yet it is not so hard to understand. In Phil. 1:21 Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In other words, his relationship with Christ was such that nothing in life could compare to it. Whatever joy he might have had in life, it was nothing compared to his desire to be with the Lord. For Paul, home was where the Lord was, even though he had never been to that place before.
We understand this in our own experience because home is where our loved ones are, no matter where that place may be. We may have fond memories of the old family dwelling place or locale, but once the family is gone from that place it isn’t the same, is it? As it turns out, it was not the place that was so special, but the fact that our family was there. This was Paul’s attitude about going to be with the Lord. He’d never been to that place, but it was home because the Lord was there, and nothing on earth would satisfy this desire.
This should be our attitude as well. God gave us a beautiful world in which to live, full of all kinds of wonders to amaze us and to enhance our time here, but like the old song says, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue.” We should not be so attached to this place that we lose sight of where our true home is. As we live our lives our overwhelming desire, and our every action, should be so we can go home to be with the Lord when we die (2 Cor. 5:8). If we do so, then we will indeed live happily ever after, at home with the Lord.
(Note: Case in point to the theme of this article. The photo above is the old Dominguez family home in Lake Elsinore, CA. My father purchased this house after his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1945, and his mother and sisters lived in it for many years. This was a favorite place for me in my youth, and I spent many happy times there. This photo was taken a few years ago when I was visiting in CA on vacation. I loved this place as a child, but it’s no longer home, because my loved ones are no longer there.)