I know quite a few people who have moved recently or who are between homes at the moment. And I’m conscious of the thousands upon thousands of people displaced by circumstances beyond their control; persecution, floods, fear of imprisonment or loss of livelihood or freedom. This post is a thought I am sending into the ether for all of them, but also for all of us.
There is so much emotion tied up with the concept of home. I talked about this a lot with people as I travelled round the world two years ago. Many of my hosts had made a new home for themselves in a different country and culture from the one they’d spent their childhood in. All sorts of things had taken them into those new places; work, family, a significant relationship, search for a place more resonant with their own values, a sense of exploration and adventure. That they’d made a good home for themselves in the new place seemed important to recognise.
Other people I met and stayed with had had little or no opportunity to visit another country, let alone to live anywhere other than where they had been since childhood.
A while ago I read the brilliant book “The body keeps the score” by Bessel Van der Kolk (2014). One of the many insightful observations he makes in the book is that, when faced with any of the traumas that life throws at us, we tend to return home, even if home was not a happy or safe place for us.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma https://g.co/kgs/NA5W6h
I am so fortunate that I was brought up in a stable home, where I was protected from most life challenges or traumas, and where I knew ultimately that I was loved. I remember our parents were keen that we were able to remain children for as long as possible. (I’m not sure I’ve actually ever grown up in some senses!)
When I first had to go for ultrasound and biopsies for suspected breast cancer, I remember returning home, cancelling all my appointments for the weekend and curling up in an armchair with a favourite children’s book. Faced with trauma, I returned home.
The whole of my adult life has in one sense been about creating a good home, where people can come and go and find rest, peace and love. I am only realising that now, looking back. It seems to me to be a really important job to be doing, although it’s rarely recognised as such in our Western culture.
This track from the wonderful Lynne Arriale and her piano trio is called “Home”, and captures exactly what a good home feels like to me. Once, many years ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed by all that was wrong in the world; all the pain and grief and injustice people were suffering. I played this track over and over again that day and cried all day for the gap between how the world is and how it could be. How I felt deeply it should be. This has remained my prayer for all those in between homes, making a new home, or mourning the loss of an old home. As I listen to it, it becomes my prayer for all refugees and displaced people, for friends struggling to find a safe home, or beginning the work of finding their feet in a new place and creating a new home.
As a Christian, ultimately I believe our home is in heaven, where thieves cannot steal and moths and rust can’t eat away at anything, and where all tears will be wiped from our eyes. In that home there will be an end to all death, extinction of species, pollution, mourning, crying and pain. The old order of things will have gone, replaced by a new creation. Between us, we have all the tools we need (love, hope, creativity, imagination, kindness, faith) to be growing this new creation. Ultimately we can’t bring it about, but I dare to entertain the hope that we can tune ourselves to its song and trust God for the rest…