Welcome Home

August 7, 2015

images-4I was recently greeted with a written sign reading, “Welcome Home!” to a place where I have never lived. What would give the host such confidence in knowing I would feel “at home” in their place?

I was born in a small coal mining town in north central Pennsylvania. Twenty-something years ago, I moved to Northern Virginia. I have almost lived the same amount of years away from where I grew up as when I was there. Yet, when I say I’m going home, I mean to north central PA where family, longtime friends, culture, comfort foods, sights, sounds, school colors, dialects are familiar. It is the place of my origins and it is where I feel most content with being myself.

On my return visits home, although much is the same, I also notice many things that are now different than I remember. The room and twin bed I grew up with seems a lot smaller now. The old tree in the yard has since been removed. A favorite sub shop has closed their doors for good. There are new neighbors, who are nice, but are living in a childhood friend’s house. I believe these changes are what are meant by “you can never really go home again.” Even in the midst of some constants, I have changed.

I have felt “at home” in other places. When sitting in a lazy boy in a friend’s living room with no pressure to leave, sharing a drink and enjoying a bar-b-que on a neighbor’s deck, nostalgic conversations on similar childhood and teen years despite being from different zip codes, I have often said in those situations, “this feels like home to me.” I suppose the main contributors are feeling accepted, comfort, familiarity, harmony and ease of mind.

So it makes sense, when I’m feeling unaccepted, uncomfortable, unfamiliar, in disharmony and anxious, I do not feel at home. If I’m honest, I’ve been feeling this way more in the last several years and even more recently due to current events and social discussions. I don’t even have to name the topics, but you would recognize them as the ones that blow up your news, Facebook and Twitter feeds for an intense 24-72 hours. They cause some of the most vicious comments and divisions – even some of them coming from our friends and family members. They are polarizing arguments that are directly in opposition to our personal world views and in many cases fundamentals of faith.

At least for me, this kind of discontent can resemble “home sickness.” When I’m home sick, I long for a remembered place. There is something that I’m missing and can only be brought to peace by a visit or anticipated visit home or perhaps a phone call. Also, in these days, I’m finding a comfort in God’s promises and trying to keep an eternal perspective. Scripture gives us several descriptions of God’s eternal Home as a place where God’s presence is always felt and there is an absence of decay, discontent, sin, war. More encouraging, Jesus said He was returning there to prepare a place specifically for you and me (John 14:2). God knows best what are homes should be like.

So, as I’ve grown in my years and faith, my definition of ‘home’ has broadened. It looks more like what I’ve once known (family home), what I find (building extended family/home away from home), what I long for (Paradise/Heaven) and what I look forward to (in my Father’s Home). It helps to bring peace in times that Jesus had forecast (Mark 13) and ushers in hope of what Home can and will look like (Psalm 84:10). It’s a view that allows this Pilgrim to sing –

“This world in not my home, I’m just a passing through;

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” – traditional hymn ‘This World Is Not My Home’

-Mark Boughner

Mark Boughner

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