Saturday, May 9, 2009


What is "home" to you?

I'm thinking about home right now. Maybe that's because I'm going "home" to Maryland tomorrow. So I wonder, where is my home? I live in Ohio now, but I refer to Maryland as "home."

The irony is, for the last, let's say, 13 years in Maryland, I didn't feel at home. Of course, in one sense I felt at home, because I was in a place where I'd lived all my life. Yet at a certain point it had ceased to feel comfortable, ceased to feel like home. It became, to use the German term, unheimlich.

I spent probably too much time pondering whether or not a sense of "being home" is an internal or external state. Would my problem be solved by moving somewhere else? Was it the house? Was it the neighborhood? Was it the community? Would I be more at home in the city? In the country? Can a place really make such a difference?

Or is the issue internal? Something "not at home" in my soul? Did I have to change myself? Would moving somewhere else be a kind of cosmetic change, like a nose job, that would alter the surface without addressing any of the underlying issues? Was my desire to move like the man who wants a new wife--and as the saying goes, he can get away from his wife, but he can't get away from himself?

During this period, I was much inpressed with Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, which was a selection in my reading group. In that book, a man's life is changed, much for the better, when he literally returns to his family home. Could that be real, I wondered? Or is just a fairytale? I also spent time pondering Jesus' statement that his father's house is a mansion with many rooms. I do understand metaphor, but it was powerful to me that Jesus used the metaphor of home to describe the kingdom of heaven. And since he is the one person I can trust, that statement carried enormous weight with me.

Anyway, I talked about home to a tiresome degree to anybody who would listen, longed to move, constantly looked at other houses, and finally decided that my issues were probably internal. My children loved our house and community, nobody but me wanted to move, and I had to agree that, objectively speaking, it was a nice place to live. What was my problem?

Then, last year, many ways opened and we ended up moving here to Barnesville. And oddly, after only nine months, I feel more at home here than I felt for the prior 12 years in Maryland. (However, I do miss my friends at home.) I also feel that if I were "normal," I would miss my bigger, nicer suburban house and all the amenities that come with living in one of the most affluent suburbs in the country. And sometimes I do. You can't get sushi in Barnesville. This is defintely a poorer area, trailers are not uncommon and I imagine you'd have to go to Pittsburgh to find a Nordstroms. But someone, none of that seems to matter much. I like it here.

I love the rolling hills, the pond, the wildflowers, the geese with their goslings, the school ... all of that ... and yet this sense of "heimlich" goes deeper than any of that.

So anyway, my questions are: What makes us feel "at home?" Is it internal or external or a combination of both? Why would we stop feeling at home in a place? What makes you feel at home in a place? Have you felt not at home in a place? And finally, what does Jesus mean, do you think, when he says our father's house is a mansion with many rooms?

What is home?


Ted M. Gossard said...

I think it's a place that is fitting and into which we fit. And that's meant to be both nature and community. Just like the garden and city at the end of the Revelation.

I like the TNIV rendering of John 14: "In my Father's house is plenty of room" (something like that). Left to myself I might pick the individual rooms, but we're meant to be in communion together, in our communion with God.

Thought provoking words, Diane. Can't wait to get something I can have upstairs, as I really am not crazy about being down here. But I'll have to keep thinking on what you say here.

Diane said...

Thanks Ted.

I like your alternative translation of John 14. It fits in well with Scot's post today about salvation as just about "me" as missing the point.

Bill Samuel said...

Thank God you're not "normal"!