Home is a person…preparing a place…with you in mind.
I had always thought of Home simply as a place until I read Frederick Buechner’s The Longing for Home, in which he vividly describes his grandmother:
“For all its other glories, the house on Woodland Road could never have become home without the extraordinary delight to me of her presence in it and the profound sense of serenity and well-being that her presence generated, which leads me to believe that if, as I started by saying, the first thing the word home brings to mind is a place, then the next and perhaps most crucial thing is people and maybe ultimately a single person.”
When Buechner thinks of home he thinks of a place…at first.
I think the same. The comfort of consistency and the unearned love that enveloped me in the home of my maternal Grandparents made it distinct from all the other houses in which I lived. I consider it home in the greatest and most endearing sense of the word. I return to it still, though many changes have rendered parts of it unfamiliar. I remember its nooks and crannies and how I fit into each one; I find myself trying to fit back into those places that opened places in me.
Buechner says “…the next and perhaps most crucial thing that comes to mind is people and maybe ultimately a single person.” Most crucial indeed. Had it not been for the love of my Grandparents and their presence, their own selves filling up that space with comfort and care and belonging, it wouldn’t be dear. I have a hunch that the defining element of home and what may very well be the soul center of home, are the souls themselves. It is exactly a person’s presence in it that makes a home a home: The presence of the one making it so and the presence of the ones living in it. A home asks one to beautifully, uniquely prepare that loved place for loved ones. Without this heartbeat, this pulse, a dwelling is reduced to merely a shell, hollow and cold, four walls. So, what I should think of first when I consider home and perhaps what my soul perceives first, though my mind is slow to catch on, is a person.
And that is why I’ve come to believe, through years of searching, that Home is my legacy. This awareness came, in part, through the wisdom and genius of author Wendell Berry as spoken through his character Hannah Coulter.
“Sometimes, a haunted old woman, I wander about in this house that Nathan and I renewed, that is now aged and worn by our life in it. How many steps, wearing the thresholds? I look at it all again. Sometimes it fills to the brim with sorrow, which signifies the joy that has been here, and the love. It is entirely a gift…Sometimes I sit still in my chair late into the night, telling over this story to myself.”
So that one day, towards the end of my days, I might have a sweet story to tell myself, I wrote, years ago, the words of the song “Make You A Home”, “If I could make a place of peace, A refuge for you to come/ If you would give your life to me, I would give mine to make you a home.”
And that is perhaps why Andrew Peterson, in his song “My One Safe Place” doesn’t sing “…So I run away home… to The Warren.” No, he sings “…So I run away home to you.”
And, after all, wasn’t it the Israelites who, in the wilderness following the Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night, lived with the very Presence of God? His Presence was their home. And when He moved, they moved with Him. Not to be in a place, but to be with Him.
“…home, finally, is the manger in Bethlehem, the place where at midnight even the oxen kneel…Home is where Christ is…” Buechner says.
Furthermore, Christ assures us, “I go to prepare a place for you…and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may also be.” A Person…preparing a place…with you in mind.
And at the much groaned after, future redemption we read, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people and He shall be their God.”
Home has become, at long last, Him. No further need for Him to be housed among us and no further need for us to be housed. Created to be in intimate relationship, we find, as it just so happens, our “fullness of joy”, as King David says, in the very Presence of our Creator, Redeemer God. How could we ever consider our true and enduring Home to be anything less than the very best He has to offer, namely Himself?
This is perhaps why I am more than a little uncomfortable when a Gospel proclamation urges its’ listeners that they may get to go to Heaven when they die. Perhaps it’s more telling and to the point when we share that, as believers, we receive the impossible reward and inheritance of living with our God for eternity in heaven; thus placing the emphasis and the prize and the Glory on the One to whom it belongs in the first place.
I don’t mean to assert that a person’s idea of Home can’t possibly be a place. I do mean to provoke some thinking and perhaps feeling of what or who Home truly is at its’ center, at its’ very essence. As the fairy-faced Stella ponders in Elizabeth Goudge’s Gentian Hill,
“Home! It showed you its face when you sat quiet within it at that moment when day was passing to night, but it could only reveal its spirit, its eternal meaning, when you stood at a little distance, just turning to leave it or just returning to it, seeing it at that transition moment when a larger world was claiming or releasing you.”
From that larger world to which we’ve gone, let’s return Home in our mind and in our spirit to who it was that made a home for us; all for the sake of beautifully, intentionally preparing our own place for those we have in mind; the children at our feet, the grandchildren coming and going, or the dear friends who may have yet to feel at home anywhere. So that when the sweet sound of our voice is heard speaking the gospel, telling of the future and hope God has prepared, the sound will indeed be sweet to hear. For the precious souls under our own roofs, even through our broken and feeble efforts, will have something unfathomably deep awakened within. And they will hunger to have, and to keep, and to hold onto the only enduring and eternal One who gathers His own to Himself where we at last and endlessly come home.
“Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
-A Prayer of Moses the man of God” Psalm 90:1