Home sweet home

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. In a sense it is still “home.” The home I grew up in is still there, and some of the friends that I grew up with still live in Knoxville, although no one in our family still lives there. Driving around my old neighborhood, I can still see the schools I attended and the ball fields where I played, and other places filled with all kinds of memories. I was there recently and started thinking.
Where is home? The Dictionary says that home is “the place where a person lives,” or “a family living together in a building or a house,” or “the place where a person or an animal naturally lives or is located.” In nature turtles literally carry their homes on their backs. Birds build nests.  Rabbits burrow into the ground. Beavers construct their homes in the middle of a pond. And each year thousands of people build homes, and sell homes, and move home.
For some of us “home” is a deep and heart-felt sense of place. For others it is the relationships we have that make a home. Some argue that home is something that has to be “made” or “created.” Others say that home is a place of peace and belonging and love, wherever it is located.
But where is home? Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” T. S. Eliot once wrote, “Home is where one starts from.” Emily Dickinson observed, “Where thou art, that is home.” Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
In popular culture “a man’s home is his castle”, and everyone knows “there is no place like home.” We’ve all heard that “you can’t go home again,” and “home is where you hang your hat.”
In 2013 there were approximately 610,000 people in the United States who were “homeless.” While this is a little better than 2012, the number is still staggering. But the truth is that there are some even in our community who are homeless, and many more who have a home, and maybe even own a home outright, who feel a sense of homelessness.
So what makes a “home?” Is home a place? Or a relationship? Or an experience? Is home defined by a specific time? Can “home” move? Can you take “home” with you? How do you and I make a home in today’s rapidly changing world?
In the Bible a home is a place of dwelling. In many stories Biblical homes are portable tents that are moved from place to place. Some homes were more permanent, made of rock, wood and straw. Home is mentioned over 200 times in the Bible, but the emphasis is rarely on the structure. Rather it is on the relationships we have with each other and with God. So Jesus can say, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). And verses from the Old and New Testaments remind us of the importance of patience, love, forgiveness, and hospitality in home making. Home may be a blessing, but if you read the stories of the Bible, it is clear that home is also a lot of work.
In many ways the popular saying is true: “make yourself at home.” Home is a process, a commitment, and a lifetime of persistence, patience, and creativity. And it’s also true that “Home isn’t built in a day.” It takes time to make a home. To be at home we have to “live” our lives fully where we are now, and not where we used to be, or even where we hope to be. To be at home we must “put down roots,” “build a nest,” and “invest ourselves.”
Making ourselves at home is a journey filled with challenge and opportunity. The real key isn’t what’s outside us. It is what is within. In a real sense, “Home is where the heart is.” May God help us each to discover the blessing of “home.”

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