Are You My Home?

Sep 15, 2013

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman is a popular children’s book. A mother bird flies from the nest to procure a first meal for her almost-newborn. Before mama bird returns, baby bird hatches from the shell and realizes he is alone. He jumps out of the nest and in desperation queries every creature (and non-creature) he meets with the words “Are you my Mother?” After many encounters with non-birds, baby bird finds his real mother.

“Are you my Mother?” is not my question, but I have a similar one. Everywhere I travel or live, I ask: “Are you my Home?” Since I left my childhood town of Baltimore at age eighteen, I have lived in eleven different cities for at least a year. Other than a dozen relatives, a few friends, the ocean, and blue crabs, I have little connection to my Maryland roots.

Growing up in Baltimore meant that I was neither a Southerner or a Northerner. I have lived half of my life above the Mason-Dixon Line, half below. Northerners think I’m a Southerner; Southerners think I’m a Northerner. When my Southern friends ask me, “Where is your home?”, their question grips me in the gut because I don’t have an answer. It means “Who are your people? Who lays claim to you? Where is your lodestone? Where is the ground of your heart?”

I hunger for a place to call my home, for the Delta dirt-under-my-finger-and-toe-nails kind of rootedness of my Tennessee and Mississippi friends or the grungy borough loyalty of longtime New Yorkers. Given the opportunity to move to a place I could really call home, where my heart would say, “Yes, this is it!” I am stymied. I don’t know where that is. Pieces of my heart are scattered across the country, even overseas–in the places I have lived and visited. My “home” has many rooms and they do not exist in one geographical house or place. Instead of seeing this as a gift, I find myself in a chronic state of longing. Wherever I am, I’m yearning for the rooms of the cosmic house where I am not. Nostalgia replaces paying attention to my present longitude and latitude, to God’s gift of here and now.

A popular Christian song by Building 429 called Where I Belong addresses the search for home.
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

The tune is compelling. I love belting it out at the top of my lungs. But when I sing the chorus, I’m not so sure I agree with its theology. I may not feel like I’m home yet and I know this world has its issues, BUT I think I’m exactly where I belong. If the “kingdom of God is within you,” as the Gospel of Luke says, then looking for the one perfect geographical home is a waste of time. Even imagining a heaven or perfect home after death feels ungrateful for the life and learning of today.

I’ll probably never stop asking the question, “Are you my Home?” I want a people and a soil to call my own. But home, I think, is about opening the doors of my heart to the indwelling of God and God’s kingdom here and now, in this very moment.

3 Comments

  1. “But home, I think, is about opening the doors of my heart to the indwelling of God and God’s kingdom here and now, in this very moment.” – that is, quite possibly, the best definition of home I have ever heard or seen! This is an ongoing struggle for our family as we live and work, making disciples overseas. For my kids, I think home is a combination of where our family is together and where we’re sleeping tonight. Life of an MK, I suppose!

    I want to begin now instilling the sense of home you’ve described here. Thank you so much for articulating it so well!
    Tina

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  2. I have lived all over since 18 yrs old. I wanted something more so I joined the army. I don’t struggle with where is my home because I make it wherever I am. I do however have a friend that struggles and in her case it is because she isn’t content in her home she had lived in the same house for eight years but doesnt consider it home because she wants to be elsewhere. I may be over simplifying this but I feel if she would paint and decorate and give it her own mark then it would be home. Even in a tent in the middle of the desert (operation desert storm) I found home. God bless you I hope this helps.

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