Last week we were driving home from a visit with relatives in Chicagoland and after a few hours we drifted off into the fog of road travel. We realized as the sights began to look more familiar that we were driving to the wrong home. We were driving to Michigan. We probably lost an hour, but I laughed about it all the way back to I-80. After living in three states and eight homes in 14 years, it’s hard to remember where home is.
This summer will by my second anniversary of living in New York. And even after thousands of subway rides I am still considered a transplant, an immigrant to the city. The day people started asking me for directions I felt like a legitimate urban dweller, but full New Yorker status may always elude me.
But for my daughter, it’s different. My daughter has been a New Yorker for a longer period of time than she has lived anywhere else. This is the center of her compass. We have taught her a slogan when she gets tired of walking, “We’re New Yorkers. We walk.” The city is almost all she remembers.
So where is home? Is it my childhood home that winds its way into my dreams regularly? Is it the first home we bought as full-grown, real-life adults? Is it where our extended families live? Is it where we brought our children to sleep for the first time?
For me, it’s all of those places and none of those places.
I have felt home at home and I have felt lost at home. I have felt home in foreign countries, I have felt lost in my own country. Pinpointing a home on a map is easy, but where does my heart feel at home? Not as easy to mark.
Home isn’t just where I have Wifi and a hot shower.
Home isn’t just where my family sleeps.
Home isn’t just that place that we clean.
Feeling at home is about feeling found, which is why the hymn Amazing Grace resounds with us. We all want to feel found. I have felt found in four states. In eight living spaces. Over 14 years of marriage. I have also felt lost in and among those places. What makes the difference?
Home isn’t a where. Home is a when.
Home is when I am safe to be me, to have my thoughts, to be loved in the fullness of my personality, gifts, and weaknesses; Home is when I serve someone in their need out of my abundance or little extra. Home is when we rest in a shady place before we move on to the next adventure. Home is a bench along the miles of sidewalk. Home is when there is finally peace between opposing forces, even if those forces are within me.
Home is when someone opens a door for the home-less, the refugee, the immigrant. A safe room with a lockable door for the abused child or victim of violence. Home is when a teacher makes accommodations for the struggling child. Home is when a church welcomes all people and means all people. Home is when the privileged are silent and we listen to the voices of the oppressed. Home is when there is love.
Is your home a home?