Sometimes I wake to the blackness that has crept into every corner of my little room and linger a moment and let the question rise to my consciousness. Why am I here? What purpose is there for me today? Where is home really? The quiet nagging of it brings an ache but somehow it is freeing to let the question come instead of always jumping out of bed to turn on my little lights that chase away the darkness. Sometimes it’s does the soul good to appreciate the darkness instead of running from it.
I’ve never been one to love moving around though I seldom realize that until after it has happened. I’ve had a lot of chances to see the world despite having barely been alive for two decades. I’ve lived in eight different places and currently am split between two.
I think it started to sink in the most when my family and I moved again four years ago. I was excited for the change (as I always was after initially fighting the idea inwardly). I couldn’t wait for all the exciting new things I knew I would experience… to see who I would become in the years in this new and quiet place. Somehow I have always loved new beginnings. After the first few weeks though, it started to sink in. Everything was different. Maybe I wasn’t so fond of this whole idea after all. It was a little late now though. I knew it deep down— I would either fight the adjustment and harbor self-pity or surrender and grow through it. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did.
I spent hours walking the dry meadows of the southwestern hills. After the initial excitement of new scenery, they seemed drier than ever. But slowly I came to love them. Maybe because parts of me were all tied up in the little overgrown trails and shady meadows. I’d changed there. I’d found a Love I hadn’t known existed and it had wrought miracles in the deepest parts of my heart. We’d walked and talked until the lonely plains stretching out in front of me no longer seemed lonely, but alive with His presence. I was home.
And then came His gentle calling to move on to new heights. I was thrilled for the opportunity to go out and serve. It was something I had anticipated all my growing up years, and now He was actually offering it to me. Of course I would say yes!
I remember the last morning we walked meadows together— me, eager with the same enthusiasm I had four years ago when we moved to this little spot. I tried to look back on all the memories in this place but my mind was so consumed with the new beginning that I could hardly focus on the ending. I knew it was significant though because this wasn’t just the closing of a chapter because of my moving but because while I was away my family would box up a hundred memories and hall them across the country to the same valley we had left four years earlier.
Excitement ran high as I unpacked boxes and set up home in my little dorm room. I walked the halls, marveling that in just one short week they would be filled with sweet faces and beautiful hearts that needed my love and attention. For now though, I could hardly think that far ahead. I kept looking around my own little room trying to grasp that I actually lived here. That this little square was my new home. I walked trails and sat on benches, awed that Jesus would ask me to step into the great unknown with nothing but Him. What an adventure! I knew it wouldn’t always seem quite so bright, but right now the sun shone and I smiled.
Days passed and the rooms filled with high-spirited girls and the halls rang with laughter. Often I would slip away into the quiet, though, and watch the stream trickle past or the sun set silently, and wonder if I was content to observe it alone. Was this really an adventure I had set out on with Jesus? Was I really up for all this change? I’d only learned to feel at home in the expansive meadows of the southwest after two years. I may not have that long this time. Could I let myself love knowing I didn’t have forever?
I don’t have the answers to those questions even now but when I wake up and hear “Miss Hannah, I’m so happy to see you!” ringing through the hallway, feel the soft heads on my shoulders on quiet evenings, listen to the quiet stories of lives I’m only scratching the surface of knowing, and am given hugs all throughout the day, I know that I certainly can’t help loving this adventure even if I’m not sure what turns it will take.
My phone lock screen brightens showing another message in the group I dubbed “the family” and I type in my password and swipe through pictures of the beautiful place they now call home. I zoom in and out trying to grasp every detail and wonder how many days until I’m on a plane headed there myself. I stop and look around me though and the mystery of it sinks deeper every time. Where actually is home? This place with smiling girlish faces and so many unique personalities to get to know to keep me busy for a lifetime? The log cabin, so warm and appealing in every photo that appears in our chat? The expansive meadows where so many quiet words were shared between me and the One I love most?
Stars twinkle above me as I walk back to my room with Him and I stop in the middle of the road just to look up and wonder. The Milky Way stretches above me, clearer than I have seen it in months and something in me starts to feel a little more in focus too. Maybe we’ll always be torn between states, countries, and homes down here. Sure, sometimes we may learn to know a spot on this little planet like the back of our hand, but it’s unlikely He’ll leave us there forever. Or even if He does, some parts of it will change and we’ll wonder again where home is. Maybe we always will.
I wonder if any place on earth can ever make us feel entirely at home. Is there actually a spot so sheltered from the effects of sin that it never actually tastes change?
I smile and it dawns on me slow. There is indeed. No, not the meadow I thought was so peaceful. Not the house I spent a good portion of my childhood days in. Not my little dorm room. Not the warm cabin that keeps appearing in picture form on my phone. None of those.
This Home can go anywhere and yet remain unchanged. It can pass through every season of life with me and still be perfectly capable of meeting all of my changing needs. It will follow me everywhere I go if I let it. Or maybe I should say, I can follow Him everywhere He goes if I choose to.
Because in the end, He is Home. I knew it when I left the crisp air of our northern home and headed to the southwest years before. I felt it sink deeper into my bones as I walked dusty roads and grassy meadows. But now I’m learning it all over again in new and more personal ways.
Home is not a building. It’s not even a place I come back to every night. While family and friends do provide a certain feeling of belonging, Home cannot be entirely dependent on the people around me… on whether or not I have friends or family to share the ups and downs of life. Those things may change. They may come and go and sometimes I will be left looking out at the sunset with nothing but silence and the lengthening shadows.
But if I choose it, I can still be at Home.
Home, because while in one sense everything in my life is changing, in another way, nothing is different. He still looks down with eyes brimming with love when I wake in the morning and gently whispers for me to spend the day with Him. He pushes through the walls of my heart to ask how I’m doing as I run between dorm and cafe. He still soothes all my worries away when I dare to bring them to Him instead of trying to find some antidote through my own ideas. I still feel the sweetest peace and joy in the world when journaled conversations with him clock up thousands of words. Some things never change. And that’s what makes them home.
I gaze at the sky and I wonder if I’m closest to home when I’m closest to Him. Maybe that’s why He always whispers “Welcome home!” when I come stumbling back into His arms after trying to navigate the waters alone. Maybe somewhere deep inside His big heart He knows that only when I am with Him will I really be home. And somehow as I rest in His arms, I feel it too.
Home for me is where He is.
Then the realization comes slowly— like something I’ve known all my life but has just taken root in a deeper way— maybe He doesn’t feel at home either. Maybe He walks the golden streets up there with the same lost look that’s in my eyes when I try and walk at sunset without Him. Maybe He sits alone and feels it in the depth of His heart too, this loneliness and aching for home. Maybe my ache to be at home is simply a little mirror of His own…
Why? Because to him, I am home. It sinks in slow and I’m forced to wonder how long I have made the God of the universe a homeless man by my searching for some place to fill what was always His.
Maybe it’s time to go Home and stay there.
And maybe the angels will sing, not just for me, but about how their King who had nowhere to lay His head finally got to have a home too.