April 3, 2011
I had a conversation with a man the other day for whom church was, he felt, his ‘home’. He had grown up in various churches of various stripes, preached and taught in them and enjoyed a kind of love-hate relationship with communities that were so right for him but seemed to want him to deny a significant part of who he know himself to be because of his sexuality.
Another friend who is an expatriate living in America will sometimes say that he doesn’t know where he will be buried and really doesn’t have a preference. That will depend on the circumstances of his survivors at the time of his death. I find that I share some of that sense. Certainly, Christians believe that we are “in the world, not of it” or some such thing. Our true home, we say, is with God. The discovery of the Promised Land or Land of Promise was a part of Israel finding an identity, but the later experience of exile left a longing for some idea of ‘home’ that did not necessarily involve returning to Jerusalem for most of them. ‘Zion’ became an idea or aspiration such that John the Baptist echoed Isaiah and proclaimed a vision of mountains brought low and valleys raised up such that the people could make their way to their true home with dispatch and in safety.
I’m not entirely sure where I call ‘home’. I will sometimes refer to England as ‘home’ but when I am there I know I need to go home to Atlanta. “Home”, they say, “is where the heart is” and that seems to have quite a lot of truth to it. Even so there is something about the countryside of England that touches me in a way that the good earth and red clay of Georgia does not.
Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader, has also written a novel called Homecoming. It is a fairly torturous plot with lots of twists and turns as a rather pathetic character tries to discover the truth about his father and so his origins. With much reference to The Odyssey our hero journeys in search of home, moving hither and yon in search of some elusive Zion. He ends by saying “I know it is not Johann Debauer or John de Baur I long for; it is the image I have made of my father and hung in my heart.”
In the end, my home is with the people I love and to whom I am committed, and while geography is important, there is no single piece of sod in which I must be buried.