I am an islander now. I live off the coast of beautiful, breathtaking Maine. I live in Vacationland, the land of fishing villages and harbor towns, of lobster and loons, of peace and quiet.
Very often I find myself standing at the eastern shore of the island, my back to the sun as it sets calmly in the West. I watch the colors in the eastern sky fade from soft oranges into pale creams, dusky and washed-out blues fading into grays. The pine trees on the smaller islands beyond mine grow dark and thick, blending to murky black. My eyes adjust. Things quiet. I am aware of peoples’ footsteps, of the tiny curling of water upon the rocks; I am aware of my arms pressed against my ribs, my hands tucked safe below those arms. I am alone, at the edge of an ocean, and I have no place to go but here.
Maybe it’s strange to have moved 15-plus hours away from the majority of my family. Originally, I’m a Midwesterner. My parents, creeping into their sixties, are kind people, the others-blessing sort of people, unaware of their impact because they are so used to thinking of what they can give rather than what they might receive. They have very few thoughts of self-entitlement. No, ha, I’ve kept those thoughts for myself these twenty-some years: I am the youngest child, and regrettably—yes, I’ll admit it—I’ve learned how to finagle my way into situations so I might come out the better. Is it finagling? It’s hard to say. Maybe I have simply grown used to being blessed. To expect it.
Perhaps I am the result of parents who had no worries about income, who didn’t fear whether the paycheck would cover each month’s bills. I have not known poverty, ever. And I’m profoundly grateful for that.
Youth—freedom from certain responsibilities, such as family, children, big mortgages—often intimates a sense of entitlement. As though one deserved to have a life without stresses. Maybe I should only speak for myself. Or maybe, and this very well may be true, it is simply this Northeastern mentality I’ve come to recognize, this island culture based on the transiency of tourism and the superficiality of only-on-vacation experiences. Or maybe it’s something larger—the modern mentality—this notion in our society which suggests that happiness and joy are found in quick fixes, easy solutions and social acceptance. How do we chase away loneliness? How do we make ourselves feel loved?
How does a Christian—how do I—maintain a belief that it is God’s permanence and goodness which is supremely important? How do I believe, not just when it’s convenient? How do I believe when there’s pain or discomfort? How do I stand strong in the face of being alone? Utterly, without doubt, alone. Far from home, from what I’ve grown up knowing—my identity, my roots, my foundations.
The sound of my brother’s voice is so calm. “When are you coming home again, sis?” he asks as though I’ve told him already and he’s just forgotten. His tone of voice is casual, suggests a lack of serious caring. “The visit isn’t for long though, is it,” he says, “but it will be good to see you again.”
And I picture myself sitting with him and his family, their basement filled with cool, dim light, the television shining the green of football fields and the faces of sports announcers. In his house exists a lackadaisical air of “this happens every day here.” My brother seems content with his life. He seems at home.
Our phone calls have been few, and far-between. He says he misses me. (I do believe him.)
The distance from Maine to the Midwest is too great to even realize. It is so far a journey that I can’t even think of a weekend trip home. “Home.” I’ve stayed in my parents’ house so infrequently these past few years. I can’t even conjure up the smell of it. Things must have changed. Things are always changing. And yet I have my memories—good ones, mostly, but painful ones too. There were the days I played Pocahontas and Lion King music on repeat, my Fisher-Price tape player all beat-up and dirtied, the yellow buttons eventually getting jammed. There was the back porch, the patio that opened up onto the lawn, and the daffodils that bloomed below the walnut trees. But the patio was removed, and trees fell. My parents remodeled. My siblings moved on in life. And I wanted to follow. There were places to go, things to see. And “home” seemed constantly to be elsewhere, to be something I was chasing rather than anything I already had.
There was little pain. But there was always longing for something more. Relationship, Adventure, Success, Peace, Independence. What is it? What did I long for? What do we long for? Aren’t we longing to find home? A home, our home?
But maybe “home” is not stationary. Not some permanent place in the world where we can always return to and feel comforted and safe. Because how could we feel safe while we are still human beings on this earth? We are still separated from God by the reality and visceral truth of our bodies. I touch the skin of my arm, and I feel warmth. I feel softness, roughness, reality. This is real. We are real.
Is home a place, or a state of mind, or an acceptance? How could we ever go “home” to a place or time where nothing changes, where our hearts do not shift at all? We are always, always, always changing. The glaring truth is that our changing natures differentiate us and draw attention to the only Being who does not change—the God of the heavens and earth, the Word that became flesh.
We must find our home in that Truth. In God, and only in God. We can never expect our hearts to be at “home” anywhere else. Because home is not a place; Home is a blissful unawareness of self, a bending down in awesome adoration to the Love who is infinitely bigger than we are.