Many of us fondly remember the image of a young farm girl, clicking the heels of her dazzling, ruby red slippers and longingly chanting, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…” Her tale is one of youth’s innocence and ignorance transported to a faraway magical place. While protected and guided by a loving force for good, she journeys into unknown territory. Through facing many obstacles and hardships, she gains wisdom and truth about herself and the world. In the end, discovering that the answer lies within herself, she is able to follow her heart and find her way back home.
At different seasons of life, we may ask ourselves, “What now? Where is my home? What is home to me now?” I have asked myself these questions often since returning from living abroad. I also find myself an empty-nester and, at 65 receiving Medicare, you could say I’m retired. I am finding my way home. I see my husband asking the same questions. So is our youngest daughter, who recently graduated from college. I cross paths with many people who are in transition and looking for the way home.
I’ve thought a lot about what home means to me at this season of life. I think of a place to belong, a welcoming place, a place where I am truly known and accepted. I noted in my journal a line I heard on a favorite PBS series: “A woman of substance can make her home anywhere.” So, what is that substance that allows her to be home?
There are times in life where we can feel stripped and emptied. Naked, if you will. A loss comes upon us—loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a dream of how we thought things would be. I think of Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there…Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). I am coming to believe that God is as present in the taking away as He is in the giving. When all is stripped away and I feel most naked, God stands ready to welcome me home.
In the Biblical account of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:17), we are told that the son “came to himself.” He is given a moment of clarity when he sees the truth about himself and his troubling situation—his pigpen. Just as God called him home, God wants me to come home to my true, genuine, God-created self. I have heard it said that the spiritual journey is coming back home to the present moment and to one’s true self. So, what if a way I discover God is through really being me? What if at the core of me is God? As Catherine of Genoa wrote: “My me is God.” I want that substance.
I see this homecoming theme in my recovery community. When someone comes to their first meeting, they are greeted with “Welcome home.” This greeting implies that the person has accepted that they are an alcoholic and need help. They have come home to where they belong. They have made the first step in allowing the Creator to show them what He has in mind for them, His Creation, rather than what they have fashioned for themselves. Meister Eckhart tells us that God is at home; it is we who have gone out for a walk.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ― St. Catherine of Siena
It takes courage to come home. To exercise our particular gifts and be all we can be. To listen to the voice of God rather than the taunts of fear. I am also finding that there is something God-honoring about living within one’s limits. My own limits and the limits of the communities in which I live and work. It can be beautiful. I can ask myself: “Is it right for me? Is it right at this time? Is it right at this place?” It can be very life-giving to learn to be me in community. To mean what I say and say what I mean.
At this new season of my life, I find myself more and more longing to be authentic. To be who God is fashioning me to be. I want to embrace my unique giftedness and my limitations in the moment. Both are part of the genuine me. A couple we know recently wrote: “We both have entered this season of our sixties and relish the full flowering of our lives.” I like to think that I, too, am coming into the full flowering of my life. I believe God desires this for all of us, to be fully and authentically alive in each season of life.
Another friend recently pointed out that the root word of authentic is author. I like to think of the Divine Author, my Creator, writing my life. I recently heard a story about a wood carver who was carving a statue of Jesus. When asked how he did it so well, he responded: “That’s easy. I just carve away anything that doesn’t look like Jesus.” Even though I know it is uncomfortable and sometimes very painful, I want God to carve away in me anything that doesn’t look like Jesus. As Augustine said to God, “You were within me and I was outside.” Surrendering the image of myself that I have fashioned can be painful, but necessary to bring forth Christ in me, my true heart’s desire.
Each of us has an inner voice that calls us to be who we are. I want to be a woman who forgives easily and loves unconditionally. I want to bring joy and peace to my world, to my communities. That joy and peace starts with me being at home with myself and the life God has given me right now.
I can see how I already have what I desperately want: The Divine Presence in the present moment. That’s home. It is available to us all. There really is no place like home—the present moment where I can be the true, authentic me experiencing what is and let God be God and decide what will be.
Our youngest daughter, Beka, and I enjoying a homecoming moment.