Someone once said that home is not where we are from, but where we are headed. And I think that they are right.
When I think about home, there are lots of pictures and images that flash through my mind. It’s around this time of year that I begin to miss home. After five months of being in Birmingham, there’s something inside me that craves to be back in the Carolinas. Back in the western part of North Carolina. In a crowded football stadium watching the Cavaliers play once again, while studying for AP US History. Walking the halls of my high school. Sitting on the third pew from the front, on the piano side of my home church. There is something comfortable and…right about home. Laying on my best friend’s bed and watching Bring It On, and late night expeditions to Taco Bell or Wal-Mart. The smell of my mom’s chicken tacos. The scent of my granny’s laundry detergent. And eating chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant with my other grandmother, who was as feisty as she was kind. Blue ridge sunsets and the majesties of mountains and bluegrass harmonies and towns with two stoplights and Cheerwine in a glass bottle.
But, there are other places that feel like home too. A sprawling college campus in downtown Columbia. Walking down the horseshoe to the campus ministry building where I spent my time – and my life – in Columbia. In many ways, even after campus ministers and interns have come and gone, with new floors and paint and wall décor – walking up to that place always feels a little like coming home. Football games in SEC stadiums and trips to the fair, and French baked bread from Beezers, and afternoon walks, and occasional coffee treks to Immac, and friends who became family. And listening to Viva la Vida over and over again on the way to love on some families who lived in a trailer park nearby. That place feels like home in a way as well.
And summers on camp staff. Living in Philadelphia. Eating philly cheesesteaks and falling in love with that summer and that city and that staff. Laughing together in the bathroom while getting ready and sharing friends’ heartbreaks and learning what it really means to love people. And Greenville, where I found a few forever friends. And Charleston. Charleston feels the most like coming home. In the summer that was hard. And the summer that was really good. And the summer that was the really last. Each were filled with people that are family. Who understand me in a way that others never will – because they walked through the hard and good parts of my story with me. It’s the reason why weddings are reunions. It’s the reason why buying a plane ticket to travel halfway across the country to see just a few of these people is always worth it. Because they know me. Because they are home.
And this place has become home too. I think I always miss the four years I spent at Beeson. For All the Saints and lunches on the quad and good theology and friends who are fellow ministers. Even all the boys. I miss them too.
And one day, I will look back on these Birmingham post-graduation “normal” days and miss them. The Sunday afternoons writing in O’Henrys. Singing by the piano in the house in Crestwood that is home. The way an evening primrose looks in the sunset as it blooms. Driving over Red Mountain just to see the sun peek through the hills. Hugs from all my mission friends in my three-year-old class on Wednesday nights. Saturday mornings at the ball-field. The way Eleanor Grace says “Yeah,” and watching Webb at bat “Just one more time, Ames!”
Why do places always become symbols of home after we leave them? Maybe it’s because we idealize (or idolize?) the past and make it seem perfect, when it was a broken thing. This world. It is so broken. And yet even in the idealism, there is a piece of beauty that I can barely put my finger on. And it is this: that these places and these people have been formative. These little pieces of my life are little pieces of home. But they shouldn’t point me back, to what was. They point me forward, to what is.
The longing in the human heart is to be found and to be known, and to be found lovely. To be understood. I can say this, because I am single and I am a girl, and there is no man who can claim to know or understand me in those ways. To have a place to call her home, with a person and a family and the matching china (or, in my case, probably Fiestaware). And yet, I even think a boy might admit that he wants to be known and understood too. Because it is how we were created. To be found and known and loved by a Creator and to find our home in him. My heart really is restless.
And so it is in this Savior that I turn to, in moments of wondering if I will ever be home. That Christ also had no place to lay his head. And that he left his home – to come to our home – and to bring us back home with him. The thought is almost overwhelming. That in all my striving, and all my seeking, and all my sadness – it all points to him – who left home, as Doug Webster would say, to bring us back home. We find home in him. It really isn’t where we are from. It really is where we are going.
Part of my prayer for this season is that I would wear it well. That I would use my time wisely. That I wouldn’t wish it away (singleness, freedom, my busy life, living far from my family, loneliness). And that, instead of despairing or making what was “home” into the best thing ever, it would only push and propel me forward, in finding home in Jesus.
We are at home in him.
And he will bring us home with him.