“Tear down the house that I grew up in
I’ll never be the same again
Take everything that I’ve collected
Throw it in a pile
Bulldoze the woods that I ran through
Carry the pictures of me and you
I have no memory of who I once was
And I don’t remember your name.”
-Tear Down the House by The Avett Brothers
I’m camping tonight. This time I’m sitting alone in the woods beside a creek. It’s a place I’m very familiar with, a place I’ve camped many times before—my old camping spot on the land where I grew up. It’s one of the most precious places to me on earth.
The land I grew up on sells to a new family this weekend. I haven’t truly lived here in ten years, but it’s still been home. My parents moved last summer, and for the last year we’ve slowly moved the accumulation of 20 years in the Oklahoma woods from one piece of land to another. It was time. The job is now done. Tonight there’s nothing left here but empty buildings and the land they sit on.
And that’s why I’m here—to say goodbye to the land. My brother, my friend.
Sitting here in the dark beside the creek, listening to the water and the tree frogs and whatever is making noise in the woods behind me (it turned out to be an armadillo), knowing I’ll never be in this spot hearing these sounds again… I begin to understand why men fight for land.
It becomes part of you, more than a house or a barn or a car does. You can buy multiple vehicles, build houses and tear them down and build new ones, and yet the land remains. The land is the biggest constant in our lives outside of the God who created it.
And this land… This land is part of me. The woods and the pastures and the rocky ridge that runs the full length of the 40 acres… The creek that meanders on and off of the property three times, the steep gullies that drop to meet it from the ridge above…
I know this land better than anyone. I ran through these woods as a 5thgrader of below-average height, ducking under low limbs and tangles of thorn bushes as my best friend, who was the only boy in my class shorter than me, ran beside me and shouted, “Use your smallness!”
I’m too tall to duck under thorn branches now, but even tonight I still tried because I know where every trail lays, even the ones I haven’t followed in many years.
I ran through these woods in college, every time I was home on break. I cleared a new trail over the ridge to make a loop. I splashed through the creek and dried off on the hill.
In the morning I will run through the woods one last time. And then no more.
People talk of seeing loved ones in heaven. And dogs. And cats that act like dogs.
But I’ve never heard anyone talk of seeing the land in heaven. I think that’s because we expect all this to pass away. And it will… everything we’ve created will pass away—every house and car and computer and guitar.
But we didn’t create the land. God did. And God promises us a new heaven and a new earth, just as he promises us new resurrection bodies. This means that he intends to redeem and recreate all this, indestructible and incorruptible as our bodies will be. I don’t know what that will look like. But I think that means that the land will be there.
I don’t know if I’ll care to visit this spot when I get to the new heaven and the new earth. I like to think I will. But I do know that this is what saved heaven for me several years ago. God does not abandon the land. This is not a sinking ship.
Creation groans, not to be put out of its misery, but to be set free. One day it will be. It will share in the life and freedom we hope for. The land will be there.
We’re headed back to Eden. And yes, tomorrow morning will feel a little bit like exile, but the exile won’t last forever.