Not in the conventional sense of the word, as I’m thankful to have a roof over my head. But more in the sense that I often feel like I don’t belong nor have deep roots anywhere.
My family is spread out all around the world, so we can’t always reunite for the holidays. I can sometimes feel like Scrooge, standing on the outside and looking inside windows of happy homes with happy families. Or like the elder brother in Luke 15, watching from the fields as the younger prodigal son goes inside to celebrate.
I squirm with discomfort when someone asks me about my hometown, since I can’t really claim any particular place with that label from having moved around so much. That longing for “home” in various forms has remained an insatiable desire. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to old historical buildings; they reflect and preserve stories within its walls over time. There is a grounded steadiness, a captured narrative that is both beautiful and inspiring.
Of course, there are pockets of time when I do feel like I belong; when I can truly be myself and fit in the proverbial pants that I’m wearing. But there are certain seasons that prick at those raw wounds, and Christmas is one of them. December definitely brings out the chilly, somber overcast in the weather and in my soul. The bright red and green décor everywhere can provide a stark contrast to the grayness that I can feel inside. The overwhelming sound of merriment can feel like a deafening gong, attempting to drown out the cry of my heart that has inklings of grief and sorrow.
But I wonder if I’m not alone in feeling alone. I wonder if there are people out there secretly feeling like they are also on the outside in some shape or form, yet they don’t feel permission to admit it. So here I am, attempting to break past the threshold of my mind’s fortress that wants to lock everything up inside.
I hope we can become a community of vulnerability and create safe spaces for sharing difficult experiences. Vincent Van Gogh said, “One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way”. In our culture of fast transportation and instant technology, it is easy to let that speedy pace overflow into our personal interactions with one another. A smile is easier and quicker to digest; tears and sadness are more difficult and take longer to navigate. But when our true selves are not expressed or welcomed, we end up with truncated and false selves. When we are inauthentic, we cannot be truly loved because we are not truly known or accepted. If God loves us for who we really are, then shouldn’t we, as His body, extend the same unconditional love to one another?
Do you ever feel like you need to navigate your journey on your own because others seem to be following a different life map? I encourage you to reach out and share because you never know who might resonate with your story. The true joy and hope that is birthed out of these moments of vulnerability might be worth it.
During this Advent season, it has been helpful for me to reflect and meditate on the phrase, God with us. It moves from being a quaint, overused platitude to being the very anchor that sustains and strengthens me in a rather difficult season. I can trust that Jesus can relate and empathize with what I am going through because Jesus himself can identify with not having a home. He did not have anywhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58), yet He dwells among us (John 1:14).
This is my prayer for us:
Lord, draw our hearts closer to you. May we feel at home, abiding in you. Recapture our imagination so that our definition of a home is not bound to a physical place or a particular circumstance. If the walls of our hearts could speak, they would tell great tales of your glory and intervention in our lives. We ask that you brush away the cobwebs from the corners of our hearts that have not been attended to. Would you light the fire in the corners of our hearts that have become cold and dark? Thank you that we can always sit by your fire and warm our hands there as you listen to our stories which are interwoven into your Great Story. We are in you and you are in us. We are not alone. No matter where we are, no matter where we go, Lord, thank you that you go with us. Help us to treasure up these things, pondering them always in our hearts, just like Mary did (Luke 2:19).
If “home is where the heart is,” unite our hearts to yours.
Thank you for being our Emmanuel. God with Us.
Our home…sweet home.