When someone asks us where we live, we think of our homes. I’ve lived in the same house for my whole life (so far). The reason that I still live with my parents is that my genetic defect has progressively weakened my body so that I need somebody to help me with every daily activity. (I share this, not to elicit pity or praise – I don’t want either – but to consider these questions honestly. I am a real person writing this, as you are a real person reading this, and we all live in different circumstances although we are all human.) No longer can I put food in my mouth or pull the covers up at night when I’m cold – so where I live is determined by my dependency. But this just puts a clearer focus upon everything that is important in a home – I take nothing for granted. I know more than survival, I know living. Where I live, I, like anyone who is grateful to have a home, am sheltered, nourished, welcomed, loved – I love this place where I live as my beautiful home.
And I don’t just mean the house. More than an address to which snail mail can be sent (for this can change upon moving) and more than the location of my bed and refrigerator (for it’s possible to have more than one of those) home, by the most practical and deepest definition, is where I belong. As shelter, home should never be underappreciated, for there are far too many people who live, day and night, unsheltered from the cold, rain and snow. As a place of sleep and sustenance, home is never insignificant, because rest and nourishment are necessary to life. Home as a place of safety and comfort is also never to be undervalued – for it’s like a sanctuary and there are far too many people for whom the place where they live is also the place where they are abused. It is in this understanding of shelter, sustenance and sanctuary that home as “the place where I belong” takes on substance.
So… Where is the place where I belong? Is it in this particular house? No, because that can change. Is it with these particular people whom I love and who love me? Well, that can change, too, most sorrowfully, as the lives of my loved ones aren’t permanent – so, no. In asking the ageless questions, I’m not seeking changeable answers. I’m questing for the immutable, the changeless answers that, therefore, completely answer the question for all times – for all time….
Pliny the Elder is credited with saying that home is where the heart is. This has generally been accepted as a good definition of home and I like it, too. But… Where is my heart? I’m pretty sure Pliny didn’t mean that my home is my rib cage. Christ tells us, “Where your treasure lies, there is your heart.” Now, that’s interesting… Where is my treasure? I tend to treasure temporal things – beautiful objects, the kind, physical presence of people. If I am basing my definition of home on the people and things that I love (declaring this to be where my heart is) then my definition is temporary. To find the eternal answer, I need to think of things eternal… things divine.
I’ve often heard it said that my true home, my eternal home, is Heaven. But, I rejected this answer because I thought that it meant I could only do my true living after I was dead. And what kind of life would that be? I was, after all, created by God to be here, even if temporarily. However, I’m beginning to understand that, if Heaven is my eternal home, then, because eternity has no beginning and no end, Heaven is here, now – not just hereafter. And that understanding changes everything.
If I spend all of my time and effort concerned about what is of the world – having physical comfort, prestige, the praise of people, the pleasure of things – then this is where I live: my home is transitory, fickle, fleeting, finite. If, rather, I spend my time and effort concerned about what is divine – being thankful, generous, compassionate, forgiving – then this is where I live: my home is loving, strong, enduring, infinite. As Christ tells us in the Gospels, some people build their houses on shifting sand, while others build upon solid rock. And what is more unshifting than eternity? What is more eternal than God? The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this understanding of the heart:
“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place ‘to which I withdraw.’”
No matter what location I am at, no matter what structure I am in, no matter, even, by what people I am surrounded, there is one place that is always and everywhere home. This is my inner sanctuary, the hidden dwelling place where God abides with me and I abide with God. In solitude and away from the distraction of things, I have an impenetrably deep sense of belonging. This is where I am, for I am a child of God and my home is with Him who created and sustains me, who loves me infinitely and intimately.
There are moments in my life, moments that can’t really be marked by time or in space, when I am deeply aware that I am home. This is when I withdraw into my heart and find the Presence of God waiting for me there, welcoming me, giving me shelter, rest, sustenance, belonging and identity – everything home should be. As in the song of Hosea, God says, “Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” I come home in every act of conversion while I live and breathe upon the earth, returning to my true self as God’s child, like the prodigal son returning to his father. Restored through my repentance and Christ’s self giving forgiveness in order to live with, for, and in God, here and now, I already dwell within the embrace of God – and I will forever dwell in God’s pure, blissful Presence, eternally loved in my eternal home.
That’s where I’m at.
I’ll continue exploring the ageless questions – How do I decide, What is truth, Where is God. For now, as I take up an online course in theology, I’ll be posting other questions and answers, sharing other thoughts and wonderings…
© 2014 Christina Chase