Arrived safely home this evening. It is minus four celsius; there is significant snow on the ground and more predicted to fall tonight. By the time we got to our house after a lovely family dinner with Rachel and the Koopmans, it was completely dark at the same time as last night we were sitting outside on Pip’s deck feeling the sun on our faces.
Home is a bit of a shock. The contrast with having been away is startling.
Away is the place of new and exciting experiences. Away is the place where everyone is on their best behaviour. You are treated like a guest and your hosts seem to cater to your every need. Away is the place where you are always moving on to something new and meeting different people. Away is stimulating and exciting. Away is the place where you know you will soon be gone and so you are perhaps less concerned about all the details of routine living.
Home is the place of responsibility and commitment. At home there is a pile of mail waiting to be waded through and an overstuffed email inbox that will no longer be ignored. Home is the place where people know they are stuck with you and so suffer your cute little idiosyncrasies with a little less indulgence than when you are the unfamiliar visitor from Canada who will soon be leaving.
The problem with away is that no one can live there indefinitely. If you stay away long enough, away becomes home. It is not possible to live without facing the realities and responsibilities that constitute the necessary structures of any life well lived.
Home is the place where it is more difficult to refuse to face oneself because if you stay long enough in the same place with the same people, you must eventually deal with your stuff. It is harder to hide when you are at home. Home is where you are known and held accountable for the life you live.
Travelling to a distant land offers a deep opportunity to practice living according to a different rhythm and to explore new ways of relating in an unfamiliar world. But, eventually, if we are to grow into the fullness of all we were created to be, we must come home. Flitting from one exotic encounter to another will never build a deep spiritual life in anyone. Steadiness and stability are the necessary ground out of which true freedom is able to grow.
In my post “Tramper or Explorer – NZ 12″ (November 15) I told the story of the little girl whose family could not coax her to stay on the prescribed path when they went tramping in the bush. In response to this post, Jaqueline commented,
If her family were not there somewhere on the edge of the well-worn path, the little girl would have got lost.
Explorers wouldn’t be on the edge of the unknown unless there was a known to be on the edge of.
There are those who tread the well worn path and those who long for the new path…neither would be of help to the other, without the encouragement of those who are in between, who see and experience the value of both…
This strikes me as wise and wonderful. It is good to go away when you know you have a home to which you will return. It is good to explore the edges when you know you are deeply connected to a centre that holds and is steady and real. We can afford to wander when we know that we are deeply rooted in some real place. To wander away when there is no home to which we know we will in time come back, is to risk avoiding all commitment and responsibility. To be always away, is to miss the call of love which draws us into relationships of faithfulness and depth.
As I immerse myself again in home, I pray I may not lose the extraordinary gifts that being away have given me. But I pray also that I may not lose sight of the beauty of home in the burden of routine and responsibility that home always entails. There is a gift in each. Together home and away can enable us to live in the deep flow of God’s love with richness and truth.