Glimpses IV: the spirituality of home

With this topic I enter through a small door into a big room. I do so on tip-toes so as not to awaken any sleeping giants. Home, like love is a word deceptively larger than its meager 4 letters suggests. In my 48 years post-womb I have been many people to many people with many people. A social chameleon, I guess I thought it best to live vicariously through anyone other than myself. Their stories were better, more invigorating or inspiring, or more inclined to win female attention or male praise.

As a result, home, both as place and idea, hasn’t always had the centrifugal force it is supposed to have. From time to time, life has felt a bit disjointed, like a balance with an ill-positioned fulcrum. It’s always a little off. Move it enough and one forgets where the center was to begin with.

Most folks enjoy at least a minimal sense of who they are and when their boundaries are breached. Whenever something foreign or unnecessary storms the walls of their identity they have a means of objective detachment whereby to judge their suddenly unfamiliar surroundings. I, apparently, lack this essential characteristic.

Why?

Is it my artistic, non-logical, non-empirical sensibilities? Perhaps the fact that I’m adopted? Could it be my “progressive” sensibilities (think protest songs, Kumbaya group hugs and flannel shirts), my piss poor memory or some unseen psychological malady(s)? Bad gas? It is as baffling and frustrating as it is intriguing.

The result is the fact that home needs redefining for me – renaming even; something broad enough to encompass my complexities (annoyances to those who know me best), focused enough to provide sufficient context for who I am becoming and “Jesusy” enough (thank you, Anne Lamott) to be honest, self-sacrificial and have lasting trajectory with ultimate meaning…oh, and perhaps a hint of compassion.

(The 950 square foot bungalow in Calgary where I grew up)

A recent trip to my home-turf of southern Alberta left me with these thoughts:

Home is not geographical as much as spatial. It involves an awareness, a familiarity as it were; that place “where everybody knows your name.” I know it and it knows me. There is no awkwardness or second guessing. I understand the politics, the inside jokes, the acceptable or unacceptable faux pas. The prevalent bigotries, hip views, “in” restaurants, “now” looks. The shortcuts and back roads to places only I know or care to know.

In other words, home is where we know and are known. It is about who we spend our lives with and why. We are most home when surrounded by those with whom we share life, both good stuff and bad. We are home when someone cares enough to be pissed off at us or play practical jokes on us. Or cry with us.

Here is the challenge however. As good as all that sounds, it’s still an unsure footing for something as untamed and uncertain as the spiritual life. It makes a ton of assumptions, many of which grow from our home-grown, Western world, Waltons mentality. What if I’m blind and cannot see the above gifts? Deaf and cannot hear the words of familial comfort or humor? Comatose and cannot experience them? Mentally incapacitated so as to deny full involvement in it all? Incarcerated or worse? Where, then, do I find “home”?

If anyone stood well outside the comfortable, normal or expected, it was Jesus. His was not a simple move across the country or even the globe. The journey he undertook landed him amid the harassed mass of fallen humanity of which he was now a shareholder. Where once he enjoyed the benefits of Trinitarian dwelling and the benefits thereof, he passes through a birth canal into the cold world, created for, through and by him. Jesus’ example and presence makes home possible even in the least likely locations.

Why?

He gave up his “home” in order to give us ours. And that’s good enough for me.

9 thoughts on “Glimpses IV: the spirituality of home

  1. Wow – you’ve been brave to try and put his into words, my friend. I’m so glad you posted on this topic. As a white African in exile from a place that has changed so much in my absence it will never be what it was, I am almost continuously exercised over the question of home.

    Like you I have concluded that “I know it and it knows me”. I can describe a sense of “being known” by the rocks and trees I climbed on as a child, known by the dust my feet disturbed and known by the hills in the distance. In other words it is not just the people but the place that “knew” me but the landscape. This is mystical stuff, so elusive that I have never been able to recapture it and yet I feel its absence like a pedal tone or pipe drone held long and deep in my consciousness (that metaphor is especially for you BTW).

    Is this, perhaps, something common to all of us? As Wordsworth put it,

    THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight,
    To me did seem
    Apparell’d in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
    Turn wheresoe’er I may,
    By night or day,
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

    The rainbow comes and goes,
    And lovely is the rose;
    The moon doth with delight
    Look round her when the heavens are bare;
    Waters on a starry night
    Are beautiful and fair;
    The sunshine is a glorious birth;
    But yet I know, where’er I go,
    That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.

    (Woah, that last line gets me every time)

    In one sense, I have come to see my long homesickness as a gift that keeps me sojourning here. In another sense, your penultimate and final paragraphs remind me of a fear I have that I am simply failing to find what I should in the NOW. He DWELLS in our flesh, not just then but now, too. If there is one thing I find hard to fight it is the gnostic impulse to get out of this skin. I pray we’ll be as comfortable in it as he is one day.

    Thinking out loud as usual 🙂

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    1. Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality speaks volumes into the idea of our constant pursuit of whatever “childhood” and “home” really is. I’m sick of feeling homesick. Yet, those who are wiser than I (most people if I’m honest) suggest that embracing this homesickness is yet another step in the inculcation of the Paschal Mystery into my journey. The nothingness of every tomb ultimately leads to the emptiness of that very tomb in the face of overwhelming resurrection when everything and everywhere is home.

      I suspect that I will never feel totally “at home” where I am and even in my own skin. Be that as it may, I’m becoming more OK with that fact every day. Hence the need to write about it.

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  2. Ah – you have tackled some issues that tug pretty deeply at who we are here. On the one hand – one of the defined needs of human existence is the need to belong. On the other, there is that whole slow disillusionment, the way through which we glimpse the truth that we are not truly ‘home’, not yet – and cannot be until we die to whatever home this world offers. No matter how you cut it, there is bound to be a sense of disenfranchisement and ‘not-belonging’. The question is, what do you belong to? Is it here and now, or is it to come? How are the two balanced? How do they interact with each other? (Oops, that was more than one question….) Keep pursuing the answers – and the right questions!

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    1. Melody, I appreciate your willingness to pose your question as a paradox. I think many well-meaning Christians like to brush off the incarnational and immediate needs of our physical selves to find belonging and meaning in a given locale with a particular group of family and friends. It becomes an exercise in abstractions and removed from our actual experience.

      However, for us to find equilibrium in a shifting and uncertain world where our “home” may not always look the same, we must be rooted in something deeper, more eternal. It’s a more troubling issue for many of us than we’d like to admit. Well, this was my admission I guess!

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      1. It IS troubling – and easy pat answers miss the point and come woefully short in addressing the heart hunger that remains unfed. It takes a lifetime, I assume, to sort and pile the various shades of meaning we know and experience – and then eternity to put them all in their pigeon holes! It is easy to just shrug and say ‘This earth is not my hone’ – because it is eternally true, but until that segment of our existence begins, we are in a temporal reality. A subject worthy of our contemplation and honest appraisal, I think..

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      2. We live in the wondrous beauty of this world, all of which is a liminality. Through this one, we are introduced to the next…or continuation, depending on one’s perspective. Both are the Kingdom of God breaking in upon us. Let’s live and love both.

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      3. Right – and find ways to embrace both in their own time and space, that fine line of balance that Paul finally found in giving thanks in all circumstances… It is there to be had, for those who truly seek shall find…

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  3. Pingback: Going Home, and the Way There | innerwoven

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