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