Guest blog from Andrea Dalton
Home. It’s one of those loaded words isn’t it. As soon as we hear it our thoughts flood: memories and mealtimes, Christmas and birthdays, growing up and growing old. Moments we love to remember, moments we desperately fight to forget.
Whatever home conjures up inside of us, it’s probably taken on a new spin recently: sofas turned offices, kitchen tables turned school classrooms, a place of comfort and rest turned into a growing trap. Maybe you’ve even had to move out to protect those you love; for others, deep fears of being stuck in a certain place are all too real.
It’s often said that home isn’t a place, but people, or a feeling. A quick google search reveals the hundreds of craft items you can buy with those phrases etched on, ironically to hang in the place you call home. It seems like we’ve always known home is more than our saved Amazon addresses and if there’s anything the current crisis has revealed, it’s that the walls around us may be our houses, but they’re not always our homes.
Maya Angelou, an American poet and civil rights activist said this:
“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”Tweet
Home has always been about more than bricks and mortar. We idealise homely fires, cosy living rooms and hot drinks. But we want the things beyond this don’t we? The things that Maya speaks of: real welcome, full, safe embrace and knowing that whatever is happening, home is where you can come, really be you and be totally accepted.
Perhaps part of what makes it so hard currently is that those hopes and desires of home aren’t always realised, even when we’re ‘at home’ all the time. If your lockdown experience has been anything like mine, there’s been precious moments of unexpected joy but there’s also been real sadness, struggle and aching for those things I miss so deeply.
I’m home, yet I feel homesick. Homesick for community, homesick for a full house of friends and laughter, homesick for a safe world to step back out into. A few years ago on social media Melissa Cox described this aptly:
“I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists. One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul understood.”Tweet
Even when all our time is spent at home, we still feel this right? Even with those moments of family fun or quiet contentment? We still feel this home sickness, this longing for a better, permanent home. A place of real welcome, true acceptance, lasting security.
The Christian story speaks into this in a beautiful and profound way. During his lifetime, Jesus often told stories to address some of these big ideas and desires that humanity has always felt.
One such story presents a father and two sons. The eldest has spent his life working hard on his father’s farm. The younger, in stark contrast, asks for his inheritance money and goes off to live his wild, extravagant life.
Until the money runs out. And in utter desperation he takes a job feeding pigs. Culturally, as a Jew, this was unthinkable.
And so he prepares his speech. Imagine him walking home, covered in pig muck, practicing over and over, hoping against hope it would be enough for his father to let him in. His mind must have been whirring!
Then, Jesus delivers the parting punch:
‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’
Running for grown men in this culture was shocking and dishonouring. But the father runs, embraces him and kisses him. He sends for the best calf to be roasted, lavishes him with good gifts and begins to celebrate.
Wouldn’t we love this? A family, a place where we are welcomed back, even when we’re covered in dirt. A home that fully embraces us and throws a party for us. Somewhere where those feelings of homesickness are met with real answers: we are full, loved, understood.
As Jesus tells this story, he uses it to show something significant of who he is and what he’s about. Someone who loves to welcome people, even in their mess. Someone who provides true and permanent fullness. Someone who gives peace. Someone who answers our homesickness and welcomes us properly home.
As lockdown life grows more challenging, as your house becomes more of a burden than a joy, why not use it to ask the question: What does real home look like and how am I homesick for it?Tweet
And let that question take you to Jesus. Ask it of him, along with your other best questions. See what he has to say and whether now more than ever, it might be worth listening to.
Andrea lives in Huddersfield with her husband Jamie. She works for UCCF with students in West Yorkshire. She loves good music, bright colours and trying new varieties of tea, preferably with accompanying cake.