The words "Home Body" evoke in my mind images of frumpy middle-aged women in muumuu's with excessive amounts of cats and Snackwells cookies. We tend to think of staying at home on a Saturday night as something kind of sad, boring, even lonely-- something reserved for old, out of touch people. But I'll go right ahead and say it: I love being at home.
From the time that I was eight years old until I went away to college, I moved every day. Every day. My parents were divorced, and lived only a few minutes away from each other, and so rather than spending a whole week at one parent's house, and then a week at the other, my brother and I simply packed our bags: Mondays, Wednesdays and every other weekend with Mom; Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend with Dad. And for some reason that God only knows, I have chosen a profession that keeps this home-body away from home several months out of the year.
I married a man who had seen more of the world by age 16 than most people could ever dream. When we were engaged, he talked about being "travel buddies", and on our wedding night, he gave me a set of vintage suitcases, and we dreamed together of the adventures we would have, and the places we would go. And while some of those travels have brought us, side-by-side, to mud huts, wine-country mansions, remote cabins in the woods, and high-rise hotels, most of our traveling consists of conference rooms, meetings, and eating at chain restaurants.
To be honest, when I look back at the last two months, and see how little we have been home, it makes my heart heavy. And when I look forward to the next few months, it gives me little knots in my stomach. But really, what can you do? There are certain aspects in most of our lives that simply go against the way that we are wired. There are elements to life that seem to take away life; things that we have to push through, tolerate, endure, and figure out a way to survive.
There are moments when we are at our worst-- when we are raw, worn out, unfiltered, and red-lining-- and we simply have to keep pushing and do our best. And there is also this idea that following Jesus somehow means that we have a mysterious abundance, an overflow of love, grace, & kindness, with warm-fuzzies, and pearly-white smiles. Some people, Lord love 'em, experience that in their lives, but let me be the first to admit that I am sometimes drained, complaining, martyred, and ache for home-- not in some spiritual heavenly sense, but I just want to sit in my living room with the front door closed, and my suitcases far from sight, and simply take a deep breath.
I don't pretend to comprehend (let alone live out) Jesus' words about living water that causes us to never be thirsty. I get "thirsty" all the time. But one thing that resonates with me is this:
"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you... I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love... I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you."
-John 15 (The Message)
For someone constantly aching for home, these words are a mantra-- something I breathe in and out as I fall asleep at night, an anchor that keeps me centered, and a compass that orients me. Make your home in me, as I make my home in you. Make yourself at home in my love. I sink into those words, and something seems to settle inside of me... if I will allow myself.
So often, when I am traveling (and traveling, and traveling), all I want is my own space, my own time to sit with my thoughts (or without them), and to not have to acknowledge human presence for a while. That’s the thing about traveling, is that you never really get your own space, routine, food, bed, or much of anything you can claim as your own.
But the interesting thing about this invitation to be At Home is that it all seems to revolve around loving people. I don’t quite understand how that works-- how being at home in my Creator, and being at home in his love is connected with loving other people. When did they come into the equation? I was just sitting at home, in this love, and joy, and intimacy, breathing deeply and feeling centered, and my zen got interrupted by all these other people.
In fact, I’ve never really thought about the connection until just now. I have always used this passage as an invitation to close the door, take off my shoes, put on my PJ’s and get comfortable with God in some imaginary, clean & quiet retreat center for my soul (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it sounds nice, and if I’m honest, it is bit of a picture of what I imagine as “being at home” with Jesus).
But when I really look at that invitation, the two themes that he keeps returning to are being at home (abiding, if you will), and loving one another. It seems like the two ideas are inseparable. And, if I’m really going to be honest, that’s kind of a bummer, because when I am worn out & home sick, I would much rather focus on centering myself than intentionally loving the people around me.
I’m not saying that I shouldn’t unwind, re-charge, or even crave quiet alone time. But it seems like the key to really feeling at Home (even when I can’t be at home) might lie somewhere in the act of loving other people. Perhaps that’s why God drags me out of the comfort of my own four walls so often, and why it seems difficult to find time alone. Maybe I need an extra little nudge out the door.
I’m not sure what this looks like on a practical level-- what it means to be at home through the act of loving others. Oftentimes, love is risky & uncomfortable, which to me sounds like the opposite of being at home. But I also know that some of the moments when I have felt the most alive, and the most comfortable in my own skin have been when I have entered deeply into life with someone else, loving sacrificially and taking the focus off of myself. I suppose that is a bit of what being at Home looks like...