As I thought about this post…which I have been looking forward to for some weeks now…many trite phrases came to mind. Beginning with the most youthful, there’s Home again, home again, jiggity-jig. The most foreboding, in my opinion, You can never go home again. One of the most stitched, Home, sweet home. And then the metaphorical…One’s home is one’s castle.
These phrases and sayings imply that home is a physical place or structure. Once upon a time, I thought so too, but now…now I am not so sure. Though, admittedly, this has all occurred to me while visiting a place where I feel very much at home. And I think precisely that is a key part of it…a place where I feel at home.
Is home a feeling, then? Yes, perhaps… In a way. Is that feeling or awareness affected by surroundings? Absolutely…it can be more immediate or less, depending. Home…a rightness of place, a dropping of shoulders and defenses, a delight and transparency, both a looseness of spirit and a coming into a fullness of self, a sense of love’s honor, grace, and challenge, a freedom to pursue Life.
I spent last week, Holy Week, wandering the streets of New York City and attending the liturgies at Saint Francis Xavier church, among good people who have welcomed me as part of community for years. This return was no different. There were hugs, mutual expressions of joy, invitations to participate in different ways, good conversations, and an intimate atmosphere of prayer. Augh! The hours I spent steeping, absolutely steeping, in the textures of he City! Steeping, delighting, remembering, taking in anew…taking in the textures of language and personality, building and greenery, noise and quiet, reflection and speed, grit and awe. As I wrote in my notebook, How attracted I am to the contrasts, to the textures, of this city. How things overlap, rub against, and come together like a mosaic…on a sunny day, how they come together like Matisse in a glorious riot of of the senses and leave me with a fullness of free being.
In other pages, I reflected on how much I love the big building feel. To be a part of something so organic that is so much bigger than me. To find a great freedom in the scale and feel a glorious part of its movement even though, compared to it, I am small…one tile.”
Upon my return, at the prompting of the Middle School Global Studies teacher, one of the fifth grade students at the school where I work asked me the question that had come up in their class that day: Why would anyone want to live in the midst of 8.1 million people?
The question was unexpected and my response, spontaneous. Because for me, all of those textures, how they come together, reflects the kingdom of God…to be in the middle of all of that diversity speaks to me of God’s richness, fullness, wide acceptance, roominess, creativity, generosity, challenge, grace, love…it speaks to me of God’s Heart…
And I feel free in God’s heart…able to relax and drop defenses…a rightness of place, a generosity of spirit, a delight and a certain looseness that allows my own heart to hear again and again, Nothing can separate you from my love, and in turn bring that deeper joy to others.
There, more than anywhere, am I at home.
And there, I am not bound. I know that feeling of home and freedom in so many different settings…I know it gathered around a table at a wedding , in the understanding or the living room of a friend; in the eyes of a loved one thousands of miles away; in the snug security of a favorite view from a thinking spot; in the conversation with a child, the moment of teaching, the moment of learning or noticing or creating; on a plane or on a walk, headed toward a new adventure of one sort or another.
And when there are those times when I forget, or when I have a hard time recognizing what surrounds me, I can return again and again and again and always.
Because I can not leave…not really.
Thanks be to God.