Home Again Home Again

Having moved twice in a week and slept in several different room such that I definitely woke up several times and couldn’t place where I was, I’m now back in the Land of Pilgrims for the summer.  Thanks for your patience while I traversed the country; I didn’t totally fall off the map, just shifted my vantage point on it.

I’m staying with Interpreter while I gear up to start chaplaincy, both of which are crazy adventures I most surely could never have thought up a few years ago (even last year, really).  Being here has been lovely because I’ve been able to see (briefly) Magister and Watchful and have had a few days off to unwind and start healing some of the wounds of my time at the Wicket Gate.  But it’s also a bit awful because of the truth of Heraclitus’ saying that you can never step in the same river twice.

I’m back home!  I’m with the people I know and love who know and love me, and I have my favorite coffee chain back, and I’m staying with my best friend, and I know where the best grocery stores are.  Except I don’t know these people, not as well as I did, and they don’t know me; we have all of us changed in the past year in the small ways that matter tremendously.  I haven’t yet been to my favorite coffee chain because I don’t have a car, because I live in a different part of town.  My best friend and I are negotiating the incredibly mundane intimacy of living in the same house but having wildly different schedules.  And the grocery stores are where they used to be but feel jumbled, like old transparencies laid on top of one another, making the projection two different images fighting for the same visual space.  My head maps the Wicket Gate first now.

This continuing discovery of what “home” means and how utterly complicated that is is zero fun, actually.  A fellow blogger is having some similar (but far more in-depth) issues as she cares for her post-stroke mother in her childhood home, so I know I’m not alone in this feeling of outside-and-in.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the warning Jesus delivers to the guy who wants to follow Him, that “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  I wonder if He meant far more than just not having a reliable bed for the night—I wonder if this is in the same category as “the prophet is never welcome in his hometown,” as “My mother and brother are those who listen to and do God’s commandments.”

I wonder if Jesus left town because He knew He would be too changed to truly return.

I wonder if Jacob thought that when he went to meet his brother Esau; I know he also had the fear of reprisal from having totally screwed his brother over for the inheritance, a fear I don’t have being back here.  Perhaps it’s not surprising, how much the Bible thinks about what it means to go back home and how you can’t really do it—after all, it was written by and for a people who fairly regularly got kicked out of their homes by the empire of the day.  That homesickness for something that never really existed in the first place colors Christianity:  John’s Revelation talks about a city where we end up and stay, a city that last a thousand years.  Growing pains are not part of that city.  Having to re-learn each other’s stories is not part of that city.  Feeling different is not part of that city.

Is forgetting part of that city?

0b64c5f342b44bf18fd2762e6a77424bEven while I try to re-assimilate to this place that I do still very much call home, I am mindful of the friends I made back in the Wicket Gate.  I remember that they have changed me, just as the enemies I made have changed me, as the things I experienced have changed me.  It doesn’t really matter whether I am glad they changed me; that change is irrevocable.  I am not the person I was last August—I would not be the person I was last August had I stayed here in the Land of Pilgrims, and I am fooling myself mightily if I try to believe I would not have changed even here.  We are ever-changing creatures, we mortals.

I don’t have a good wrap-up for you, Reader, as I’m still navigating what it is to be back and yet not.  I will have to leave again in August, return to the Wicket Gate and change some more, re-tell my stories to the friends there of how much I changed in the chaplaincy here (boy howdy will that be a lot of change, I’m sure).  Hopefully the Land of Pilgrims will remain home as I leave again; hopefully it is still home as I sit here on Interpreter’s couch listening to the fridge hum determinedly to itself, my fingers sore from steel guitar strings as they tap on the keys to tell cyberspace that I am back, but I will never be back.

There is no back to go to.  There is no place to lay my head.  Can the unchanging God Who moves with the ever-changing me be Home enough?

 

 

“There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so.  And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”  (John 14:2-3, GNT)

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3 thoughts on “Home Again Home Again

  1. Perhaps you will appreciate these words from Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” section 10. He’s talking about how hard it is to follow him on this road, and among the discouraging items he lists are these:

    “You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,

    “You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you,

    “What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,

    “You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.”

    I have often found myself in exactly the situation he describes here, and it sounds like that is where you are, too. Which is just another way of saying that we are pilgrims and sojourners. And you’re right: it’s not much fun sometimes.

    But on that note: Welcome home! (For now.)

    Ron

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    • I’ve always felt unable to understand the idea that misery loves company since really I’m just sad that he also gets how the quiet violence of uprooting.

      But thanks. Misery loves company. (And I am glad to be home.)

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      • Sorry if that text seems sad. I don’t think Whitman intended it that way. I think he meant it as a challenge. In its entirety, the poem is an invitation to keep moving — spiritually, at least, if not physically — and to pursue “the Great Companions”… those before us who kept growing and experiencing new things throughout their lives.

        At the risk of being boorish, I’ll make his case briefly. (You are free to tune out like my daughter does!)

        It’s because of the fundamental importance of learning and growing that he says (section 9), “…we must not stop here,

        “However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling, we cannot remain here,

        “However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters, we must not anchor here,

        “However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, we are permitted to receive it but a little while.”

        But he doesn’t seem to think that this is sad…

        First, because we’re chasing after “the Great Companions,” who are, among other things, “calm, expanded, broad with the haughty breadth of the universe” (section 12).

        Second, he’s not sad because he absorbs the people and places he’s known into the very fabric of his being (section 13):

        “To carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go,

        “To gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts,

        “To take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you,

        “To know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.”

        I still carry in my heart people who are no longer on this earth (and I think you do, too). I remember how they laughed, and how they made me laugh. I remember their kindness, their idiosyncrasies, the special insights that I might never have had if they had not shared them with me. I remember students: I may have only known them for sixteen weeks, but I remember things I learned from them about Descartes and Kant and life, while we were busy pretending that I was teaching THEM.

        I carry in my heart places that have long since been bulldozed to make room for something else. I still go to those places sometimes, and they’re still real to me.

        And this brings me to the third reason Whitman doesn’t view this state of affairs as sad: because change like this happens even if we’re sitting still, but those of us who are ever voyaging onward will not be saddened by it. To see life as a continuous voyage is (he thinks) the key to NOT being overcome by all the changes life brings.

        “Henceforth I ask not good fortune” he says (section 1). “I myself am good fortune…. Strong and content I travel the open road.”

        A lot of Christians don’t like Whitman because he sounds like he’s bragging, but I interpret him as trying to express what a spiritual life is supposed to be like. He isn’t exactly Christian, but a lot of what he says makes sense to me, as a Christian. I know from experience what he’s talking about.

        Here’s the “so what.” I didn’t mean to suggest that misery loves company. I meant to suggest that you are part of that exalted company that is urgently in pursuit of the Greatest of Companions, as am I. Yes, I’ve had to renounce things and leave home and friends more than once; but
        I don’t know much about misery. I’m too caught up in the thrill of the chase. The One I’m after keeps letting me think I’ve caught Him, then I soon discover that it was only a small part of Him, and that there’s more… and more… so I keep pursuing. I’m on the open road, in search of the One who IS the road, as well as its destination.

        Over the few years that I’ve known you, you have described yourself as being on that same journey. I’m sorry to hear that the latest leg of your journey has been rough. I hope you will rediscover the thrill of the chase soon.

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