I hope you will forgive me if in this post I reflect on some more personal experiences I have had over the past weeks, but I have been giving a lot of thought to the subject of “home”, what it means, where it is, and what it is. I thought that sharing some of my thoughts might be helpful to others, and perhaps help provoke some thought and discussion on something that is so essential to our lives, but something that perhaps we do not give enough consideration to.
I think that the concept of home has been somewhat lost on us in modern Western society. We think of home as simply a house, the place that you currently lay your head to sleep. Or, at least, we try to think of it that way. With career opportunities spread out across the nation and the ease of travel that we enjoy, individuals will most likely move their home several times during their lifetime. It is almost as if we try to suppress the desire for permanency in our homes. Why? Perhaps it is because home is a yearning that we know we can never entirely fulfill. I experienced a move of home at a young age, moving from New York to North Carolina. These places, as you doubtless know, are more than simply places. They are different, distinct, and unique.
While I have spent most of my life in North Carolina, and consider it more of my home than New York, my birthplace still has made an indelible impact on who I am today, if not simply through my family’s cultural heritage. Though I enjoy living at a slow, ambling pace, not liking to be hurried from one place to another (a Southern distinctive), I find myself more prone to indulge in the cuisine and dialect of the North (something that my blogging partner can attest to). Both places have shaped who I am. Both homes have impacted me on some level as more than simply geographic locales.
One of my favorite science fiction films is Oblivion, and the idea of home is a motif that runs throughout the story weaved by director Joseph Kosinski. Jack Harper, who lives and works in the ruins of a New York City overtaken by the elements and ravaged by conflict, will soon be forced to leave the dying Earth. But “in spite of all that’s happened,” Jack laments, “Earth is still my home”. The beauty of the place, the serenity of his sheltered lakeside hideaway; Jack is somehow connected with this place deep within his soul. He yearns to remain with his home. But the film also explores how it is not simply the place that ties him to Earth, it is the humanity that once inhabited it, for home is not simply physical, it is also relational.
As a college student, I am constantly being yanked from my home to college and back again. Predictably, this sometimes wreaks havoc with my feelings of home. Though while at school I certainly do miss my physical home, my room, my bed, my books, what I miss more are the people: my family, my friends, my church. There is something about the experience of sitting in my home with my family, watching a film together, talking and laughing, that binds me to the place that is our house. There is something about meeting a friend or two at a familiar place to eat and simply enjoying being with each other that makes it far more than just a meal. There is something about the love that my local church poured out to my family upon the passing of my grandfather that prompts me to think of the people of my church as home. It is at times like these that I realize home transcends simple human relations and becomes spiritual.
My grandfather (known to us as “Pop”) passed away earlier this month, and as I have reflected on his life and the home that he left, I have realized to what extent the two were intertwined for him. Pop moved down to North Carolina with our family, and lived around the corner with my grandmother. He had a beautiful physical home that he cared for every single day, cultivating a comforting and welcoming physical place. That place embodies a relational home for me, my family, and I know many others. It was a welcoming place, a home where you felt safe, a home that refreshed you in the midst of the busyness of the world outside, a home that still shelters today. It is this way because of the love that Pop and Grandma shared with all who came into their home. And that love is a love born of a deep and sincere faith.
But even the best of homes can be invaded by sadness and disappointment. After Pop’s passing, I have seen that no home is perfect, no home immune to the tragedies of a broken world. No matter where I am, even if I am in the most homely place that I can find for myself on this Earth, I will still, to a certain extent, be longing and yearning for that perfect home. As Jack yearned for Earth before the war in Oblivion, as I yearn for my idea of home when I am at school, and as Pop yearned for his heavenly home in his final days. As C.S. Lewis so aptly said, “if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world”.
Thankfully we can rest in the wonderful truth that we were in fact made for a more perfect world, a world that will eventually come in either this life or the next. We will always yearn for that perfect world, that perfect home, for we have been created with that desire deep within. God has made us in His image, and thus we yearn for the paradise that was originally created (Earth “before the war”, so to speak). But let us not run from that desire for home, bemoaning the fact that no place in this fallen world can ever fully satisfy us. Instead let us embrace the desire, using it as a catalyst. Let us realize that wherever we are, we can help create some small piece of that greater ideal of home that we long for, and rest in the fact that one day we shall all be Home together.