Home. Dorothy clicked her shiny red heels and declared there was no place like it. She was probably right. For better or for worse, whether nostalgic or stressful, thoughts of home evoke strong emotions.
I didn’t realize this the first time I led a writing workshop. When I entered the classroom I shared with the marriage course teacher, I picked up all the boxes of tissues scattered around the room. They may have been tapping nerves in the marriage workshop, but I didn’t suspect we’d be sniffling tears in an intro to life- writing class.
I thought we’d break the ice, get to know each other by doing a simple warm-up about something we were all familiar with—home. After writing for a few minutes the group shared their thoughts.
The first woman reached deep into the apple pie-grandma moments in our lives. We smiled and nodded our understanding. The second woman wrote of darker things, harsh and disturbing. We straightened in our chairs and shook off our own discomforts. The third woman read three words. She faltered. Started over. Then burst into tears. Not the quiet, slipping-down-your-cheek kind, but the jerking, sobbing, smear-your-mascara ones. She couldn’t continue, but the next woman did. By the time she finished, I had passed around all the boxes of tissues.
Although most described physical scenes from their childhoods, what they were really expressing were their longings for those intangibles like beauty, and safety, and acceptance, and belonging. The things that make a place home, regardless if it is an adobe hut or a Tudor on Main. The things we spend a lifetime searching for.
For some of us finding home manifests in a literal move from one place to another. North Americans are a particularly restless lot, the average person moving about fourteen times in a lifetime. But for others, finding home is a move from an old life to a new. Whether you’re an addict getting clean, or an alcoholic with two weeks’ of meetings under her belt instead of a six pack, the stranger in church on Sunday morning, or the one new in town, although the dynamics are different, one thing is the same: you’ve left a life behind; forward is a hope, hazy with promises to which you cling, but now, here and now, can be one lonely stretch of place.
And you wonder if you will ever find home.
I belong to those restless ones who’ve moved their tent pegs many times, my physical places often mirroring a spiritual search. My mother recognized this early on and advised: “Marcia, what you’re looking for is in your own backyard.”
I wasn’t sure what she meant. Maybe it was as Spurgeon says: “He who communes with God is always at home.” I have no doubt this is true, like I how I now know this world is not my home. But before you can commune with God, you first have to meet Him.
Here’s how my search began: By counting off prayers on little white beads and confessing the week’s sins on Saturday nights to the holy man behind the screen who gave me penances to recite that would discount time spent in purgatory; by sitting in the front row and raising my hand before the others because I studied and memorized to know all the answers; by heeding the advice of the nun who said to never make out for more than two minutes because then it was a mortal sin instead of a venial one; by being a glory girl, and honor student, and Junior Miss winner, and the first in the family to go to college; by studying the secrets of ancient religions and kneeling before a Hindu shrine with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to receive a mantra that would open doors to cosmic consciousness and maybe bodily levitation; by chewing mushrooms of the non-packaged sort that set my brain to perceiving things that moved and shone where nothing had before; by tracking the stars treks and times in hopes of finding why I was and what I would be; by throwing off the supposed shackles of unliberated woman and sleeping in beds of strangers and discarding lovers as carelessly as yesterday’s laundry; by living in a tepee and cooking by campfire and staring at mountain sunsets, yearning for beauty to sprout in my soul like the seeds I buried in black earth; by crying alone as I packed for yet another journey, “This time God, show me truth;”by moving across the country to be with a man who might yet love me and finding instead the One who did.
Thank you for taking time to stop by. Please join in over the next few weeks as we explore aspects, both physical and spiritual, of finding home and our encounters with the God of My Mistakes.