The latest online version of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines “home” as one’s place of residence; the social unit formed by a family living together; a familiar or usual setting; a place of origin; an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs. It is all of those things, yet much, much more. The word “home” evokes warm thoughts for some, painful memories for others, and for still others it is largely a foreign concept. Our attitudes and perceptions about “home” are shaped by our experiences in the physical places we inhabit, and deeply influenced by the people we share that time and space with. There are huge emotional and spiritual influences involved as well, as architect Frank Lloyd Wright makes clear by his choice of words regarding houses: “…Every house is a missionary,” he says. “Space that is transformative changes the people who live there…” The question is, how does it change them, and into what? Because while home can be ‘where the heart is’ it can also be where your heart gets broken.
My early memories of “home” are fond ones, but my experience with that word in the recent past has been checkered at best. As long as Bill was with me, virtually anywhere could (and did) feel like home: student housing, a sprawling 144-unit urban apartment complex, hotel rooms, a cruise ship cabin, even a partially-plumbed summer cottage on the river. (You truly haven’t lived until you’ve had a baby in diapers - cloth diapers; we were broke college kids- with an outhouse).
While not perfect by any means, the majority of those days were happy ones because I was sharing them with the love of my life and best friend. Now that he’s no longer physically present with me, there’s no place where I feel truly at home – including and especially the farmhouse we shared for most of our nearly forty-two years of marriage. The last and most vivid memories I have of that living space are of him lying, mostly unresponsive and unable to move or communicate in any meaningful way, in the hospital bed in the corner of the living room.
Ironically, I felt more ‘at home’ at the beach last week than I’ve felt since 2014, and that feeling has stayed with me, even after I returned to the place I now call “home” and settled back into my normal routine. When I opened the scriptures yesterday I found these words from Zechariah 9:12: “…return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope…”
It was one of those occasions where the words leaped off the page and grabbed my attention and I'm still trying to figure out what it means. (Although I have to say, if being a prisoner is involved, I'd much rather be a 'prisoner of hope' than some other things I can think of!) Now I'm wondering: is this a continued rippling of that ‘breath of healing and hope’ I mentioned feeling last week? Did being in a place I love with dear friends transform me spiritually, a la Wright’s quote, even though I had never been to that particular beach before, was staying in someone else’s house, and was only there for a handful of days?
Whatever it is, I’ll take it, with thanks.
What or where is “home” for you? Is it a specific place? Certain people or things? A particular feeling or emotional response? Is it a combination of all of those things? Or something else entirely?
When or where do you feel least “at home”? What is the difference for you?
Spiritually speaking, where is “home” for you? Where is your “sanctuary”? Your Holy place?
As you ponder all of those things, I’ll leave you with this: “…Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God…” Psalm 90:1-2, NIV
(If you have access to Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying, read Psalm 90:1-5 from there; her phrasing of this passage is exquisite.)