Home and homesickness
The idea of ‘home’ points us in two directions at the same time:
Richard Rohr says that memories of “home” point us back toward the union we experienced as we grew in our mother’s body; and hopes for “home” point us forward, to a final union with our Creator:
Somehow the end is in the beginning, and the beginning points toward the end…..Most of us cannot let go of this implanted promise. Some would call this homing device their soul, and some would call it the indwelling Holy Spirit, and some might just call it nostalgia or dreamtime. All I know is that it will not be ignored. It calls us both backward and forward, to our foundation and our future, at the same time. It also feels like grace from within us and at the same time beyond us. Wouldn’t it make sense that God would plant in us a desire for what God already wants to give us? (Falling Upward, p. 88-89)
Our restless hearts
Augustine, born in north Africa in the middle of the 4th century, was the son of a devout Christian mother and a pagan father. As a young man, Augustine searched everywhere for true fulfillment. He chased after pleasures, studied various philosophies, and even joined a religious cult – but his search left him so weary he could only cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?”
At the very moment when he uttered that cry, Augustine’s eye was led to a passage in Romans that showed him how to find God. Shortly afterward, he was baptized.
After years of reflecting upon what had happened to him, Augustine began writing a prayer to God. That prayer would evolve into his Confessions, which would take him five years to complete. The Confessions would become the world’s first spiritual autobiography, Augustine’s testimony to God’s presence in a soul that had found rest in its Creator.
Augustine’s prayer began, “Great are you, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is your power, and your wisdom is infinite…. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Confessions of St. Augustine (Book I, Chapter 1)
Augustine wrote many theological books after he finished writing the Confessions, but that one sentence summarizes the theme of Augustine’s life: “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.”
In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr identifies the Holy Spirit as the restless agent and advocate that works within us. The Holy Spirit works at the deepest levels of our desiring. The Spirit shows us our True Self in God – that is, who we are when we are ‘at home’; and the Spirit works in us as a guide and inner compass, always pointing us back to ‘home’.
The Psalms give us images of God as “Home”
Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Psalm 23
Here’s a hymn written by Isaac Watts, a paraphrase of Psalm 23:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place, from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. Psalm 90
Another hymn written by Isaac Watts, a paraphrase of Psalm 90:
And Jesus promises us a ‘home’
Near the end of his Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples he has to leave them. They are deeply afraid, but Jesus comforts them, telling them they will always have a home with him. In fact, Jesus says he is going to prepare a home for them:
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places….And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1f
What words would you use to describe what “home” means to you?
What is it about “home” that makes it home?
And – who are you when you’re “at home”?