Last month my wife, Debbie, and I took a southward drive for a few days and landed in Asheville, North Carolina. Our goal, beyond a few days of relaxation, was to visit two famous homes. Asheville is the location of the Biltmore House and Gardens, as well as the Thomas Wolfe home, a home immortalized as "Dixieland" in his novel Look Homeward, Angel. Biltmore House, a sprawling 262-room chateau set within 8,000 acres, was completed in 1895 as a second home for George Vanderbilt, a member of the famous New York Vanderbilt family. These two homes represent two different worlds, yet one common hope. The residents of both houses never realized the hope sought within their walls—a hope common to all our homes and lives. It is a hope sought by all men and all women connected by the one blood of life from God, the Creator.
George Vanderbilt, like many a modern-day Solomon, built a lavish home complete with indoor conservatory, swimming pool and a banquet hall that could seat a squadron. Dozens of housekeepers, cooks, butlers and maids were required to keep the main house going, while many more hands kept up the grounds, gardens, forests and fields of the vast estate. An entire village sprang up outside the main gate just to accommodate the families that made a good living keeping up the estate. To visit this complex today is to see the lavish wealth of America's Gilded Age as it was transplanted to the southern Appalachian Mountains—at once both a display of raw wealth and a modest social experiment that has evolved and survived into the 21st century. Biltmore is still a private enterprise, owned and managed by its builder's heirs.
The Thomas Wolfe home is totally different. Set within the city of Asheville, it was a boarding home owned by Wolfe's mother, Julia. Young Tom spent his formative years in the home with his siblings and a constantly revolving cast of boarders who passed through the halls and rooms of this modest yellow clapboard home. Wolfe put fictional names to these people, but the lives and experiences are the common grist of every life. Wolfe's lyrical use of English has stood the test of time. He tells his life story within the larger search for meaning. In telling the story of his youth in a small southern town, he sought to discover who he was within the larger scheme of life beyond the town square. His book endures because it strikes universal themes and aspirations of all peoples at all times—a burning desire to know who we are and why we were born.
In parts of our world today we see civil strife, poverty and disease eating away the fabric of life. Time magazine ran an article detailing the mounting human tragedy in the Congo, the heart of Africa. Years of bloodshed ripped the soul out of a people who, with proper government, could have a high standard of living. It is a nation brimming with unrealized potential. Whether it is in the Congo or any other developing nation, people want a life free of disease, poverty and strife. Like all people, they want a government that provides a safe environment in which they can achieve their true potential.
In the opening line of Wolfe's novel he put to words his personal desire to know who he was and the vast meaning of life. He wrote, "Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas… Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years…and every moment is a window on all time." After 521 pages, Wolfe still searches in vain for understanding about his life. The hope undiscovered in both these Asheville homes is the hope entwined within the message of the Kingdom of God brought by Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×). It is the hope of a world where justice will "run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24 Amos 5:24But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
American King James Version×).
It is the hope of a time beyond all time when the earth will see the restoration of all things good, wise and beautiful. WNP