This morning, my coffee is hot and the sun is peaking through the cracks in the blinds of my basement suite windows. The light catches the dust in the air, and I find myself momentarily distracted by the way it slowly shimmers in a streak across my room. This isn’t something I would normally notice, but then again, I’m not usually sitting cross-legged on my floor as the sun rises to slowly wake up the rest of the world. I’m struck by how peaceful this moment is—my roommates still sleeping in the rooms beside and above me, the sound of birds chirping outside—and I wonder why I don’t greet the day this way more often. But then I turn my gaze from the streak of light to see cardboard boxes and permanent markers strewn around and am abruptly reminded of the task ahead of me.
In a few days I’ll move from one side of the Rocky Mountains to the other, feeling the metaphorical and literal wall of stone separating me from a place I’ve called home for so long. I tell myself that maybe calling it a wall of stone is being a bit dramatic– after all, the flight is just over an hour and a plane ticket like that can go for less than a hundred dollars. And there is no denying that the place I’m going to is also home, and I’ve missed it, but that’s nothing new. The more places you go, the more places you’re able to miss. And if I’m going to be longing for home, wherever that is, no matter where I am, I shouldn’t get too emotional about leaving this current one. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself in the nights to come when I miss the sound of my best friend’s loud laugh or the safety in my mother’s hug.
Home. I’ve rolled the word over and over in my mind so many times, wondering what it means and how to make one and what my real one is. I’m reminded of something called semantic satiation – the psychological phenomenon where a word is repeated out loud so often it temporarily loses its meaning and begins to sound like a string of insignificant sounds. And maybe it’s a bit of stretch but I think the same phenomenon can occur in your heart. I’ve made home so many places I don’t even know what it is anymore.
Miriam Adeney once said, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” And I couldn’t agree more. But I also couldn’t agree less.
In nearly every place I’ve been I’ve left a little piece of myself, a part of my heart, as Adeney would say; and some pieces bigger than others, some places longed for more, some less. And with all of these fragments scattered around, I can feel a bit achy, a bit dismantled, a bit less than whole. And I’m confident most of us have felt this way to some or a great extent—whether our pieces are left in the forts we made in our childhood home, or in vulnerable conversations in dorm rooms, or in sweaty foreign farmer’s markets, or in family road trips to the soundtrack of some 90’s band.
Home can be in a million places, in a million moments; and that is tragic and wonderful all at once. Yet to say that we’ll never be truly home again is just tragic, not wonderful—and it’s completely missing something. After all my nights of homesickness and aching for places as far as Malawi and as close as Vancouver, I now see the value in how pastors, leaders, and mentors always clichéd-on about the importance of making your home in Christ. Because now that home has become so many places, and simultaneously lost and gained meaning, I cling desperately to the promise that there is finally one thing that won’t change, one goodbye I won’t have to cry through, one person I won’t have to miss. Christ, unchanging, unshakable, and constant, is my home. And that does not discredit the homesick feelings nor will it take them away. But it does give me peace and safety and I think that’s really what what we’re searching for in a home, anyway.
words by Alyssa Vlieg and photo by Hannah Jin