At times in our lives, we wonder where “home” really is, and as holiday planning begins, the question arises in many hearts. I wrote a song for my mother shortly after we lost my dad that plaintively asks, “When nowhere feels like home, where am I to go?” The song remembers their beautiful love story, saying, “Home was in your arms, we knew it from the start!” For my mom, home had little to do with the physical houses we lived in, but was a feeling of comfort and safety and love, especially in the company of my dad. Theirs was one of those now-rare stories of love at first sight that continued for the next 55 years. Now, without him, she experiences a kind of “homelessness,” lessened by staying in the homes of her children, yet no love can replace that of her steadfast, adoring spouse.
Where is home? So many of us have felt the dislocation of moving around, and are “aching for belonging,” as Carol Kelley, local author and anthropologist, writes in her book “Accidental Immigrants and the Search for Home.” I was listening to her read about four women who became foreigners in a new land or new culture. They experienced a common transition period, including disorientation and confusion while trying to adjust. I was amazed at how much I could identify with some of their feelings, or think of some neighbor or friend who has had similar experiences. The search for belonging or “home” seems universal … though sometimes precipitated and intensified by “accidental” life events such as a geographic move or the loss of a spouse.
Sure, the experience of “home” can be associated with a specific place and with special people. But “home” will always have its deepest roots and source in Love. My conviction and journey has been one of finding belonging in communities of faith that point to a Love that is beyond ourselves, which we choose to call “God,” purer and more steadfast than our own love. I am well aware that such communities have not always been safe or loving, and have neglected and offended. For me that is just another reminder that we are NOT God, and need all the more to search for and receive the Spirit of God whose simplest definition is Love. It is also a reminder to me that we will never find perfect peace and love in human beings; such love could only be in that Spirit or Source that we call Divine. St. Augustine’s words ring true: “All hearts are restless until they rest in God.”
So amidst upcoming holiday plans, I advocate including participation in a community of faith. Everyone is searching for belonging. While not perfect, our congregations do offer the hope of community, a place to feel safety and belonging, a place to honor and draw nearer to the Author and Source of Love. One famous song calls God “our help in ages past … our eternal home.” While all else is temporary and fleeting, only God, known as Love, never ends. So why not stay in touch with such Love, through worship and practicing communities of faith, places to feel “at home” because of the presence of One whose love is our “eternal home.” God does respond to the “homeless,” which includes all of us, and does welcome us in, to a place of safety, belonging, and love.
The Rev. Ross Varney is pastor of Belleville Congregrational Church, Newburyport.