I've been working on writing 30 full-length ESL lessons on the book of Genesis. It's a fun project I gave myself a while ago, because I find that I learn deeper things from familiar passages when I pick apart the language, one kernel at a time.
Today I was scrounging around in the story of Cain and Abel... When God pronounces the curse on Cain as punishment for his sin, one piece of the curse is that he will be a "restless wanderer on the earth" (Gen 4:12). I'm writing these lessons on a beginner English proficiency level, so trying to limit the vocabulary as much as possible without losing the meaning or significance is a constant (and delightful) challenge.
In this lesson, I was trying to introduce how to express negatives for nouns and verbs. I already introduced the word "rest" in lesson 1 - because God rested on the seventh day, so in this lesson (lesson 4), I was able to say: "You will not rest."
But I prayed for a while about how to express the wandering. I finally decided to say "You will have no home." The interesting thing about the word "home" is that it is somewhat abstract. You can show a picture of a house, a hut, an apartment, or a castle. But home is - dare I use the cliche?? - where the heart is. It isn't confined to a building or geographical location. (That's why we say "Go to school, go to the hospital, go to my house... go home."To is directional, and home does not necessarily have direction.) Think about all those songs that talk about home... it's where your family and loved ones are; it's where you feel comfortable and at peace and welcomed. Home is where you know you belong.
I love teaching this word as an English vocabulary term, because people understand it. Many of the students I've had nod their heads and blink misty eyes as they learn the word, mentally going back to some far away place of love and peace and comfort - sometimes it's a place or time that they don't think they will ever be able to return to, and sometimes it's a new experience that is bringing hope and life to them again. I'm sure as you read this, you know exactly what "home" means to you... I know I do.
Now take that beautiful word, that concept that is universally cherished, and go back to that curse that Cain bore for the rest of his restless life... "no home." I can almost hear his voice quiver and crack as he huddles in the dirt and says, "My punishment is more than I can bear." Take a moment to feel the heartbreaking tragedy of it. Remember that Adam and Eve felt the same way when they were sent out of the garden. And the children of Israel, who lived as refugees and slaves and exiles and strangers in foreign lands for so many years, felt it too. No home to call their own... no home.
Imagine the effect the promise of God must have had on Abram's heart when he heard the words: "I will give you this land... Your descendants will inherit this land." Essentially, I will give you a home where you belong. And he made his home there, but he knew it wasn't his true home...
"...he lived in tents... for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God..." And he left a legacy for those who have followed his example of faith: "All these people... admitted that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own... they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16)
It's one of those bits of eternity that I think God planted in the hearts of Man, a longing for a home. And sometimes we get glimpses of it here on earth, but there is a much better home being prepared for us, if we put our faith in Jesus. I love that it is one of those promises Jesus made to his friends when he said he had to go away... that he would prepare a place - a home - for them and come back for them, so they could be together forever. Home - hallelujah.