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?
Even 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)