God's Word for today

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

What does it mean to be "home"?

It's hard to believe that it's already been two weeks since I arrived back at "home" to be with my family.

Now I'm really, really glad for us to be back together again. From time to time in my life, I seem to be "living" certain Scriptures - in my corporate life Mark 8:36, "what good is it to gain the whole world yet lose your soul" became a distinct reality for me, and surely during 2009, Genesis 2:18 - "it is not good for man to be alone" really rang true!

But in case you're wondering why I put "home" in inverted commas, it's because I'm beginning to change my understanding of "home" from being a particular place or a plot of land with my name on the title deeds, to being more of a state of mind. And in my case, given that I have entered an itinerant ministry where one is moved from place to place every few years (or after one year as I go from Uitenhage to the seminary in Pietermaritzburg), "home" becomes whichever place my family is. So next year, "home" will be somewhat divided as part of my family (Belinda and James) joins me in Pietermaritzburg, while another part (my mother) remains in Johannesburg.

But it's an interesting concept, this one of "home". A couple of months ago I had a discussion on this subject with Rev Dr Gqubule, who asked the seemingly innocuous question, "where do you call 'home'?" And I had to think about that quite carefully. Is it England, the land of my birth? Not really - we came to South Africa about a month before I turned five, and seeing as I am now 40, the overwhelming majority of my life has been spent living in South Africa, and so, having married a South African girl and having a son who was born here, I see myself as South African. Is "home" Johannesburg then? At the time Dr Gqubuke asked me the question, I has to answer "yes", not because of ancestry or ownership of bricks and mortar, but because my family was all there at the time.

And spiritually, where is "home"? When I was in the Welsh Male Voice Choir we sang a Negro spiritual song called "Going Home", which spoke of when we leave this earth and return to the arms of our Maker. Consequently, it was a popular song to sing at funerals. In the Scouts, we used a tracking sign comprising a circle with a dot in the middle, which meant "gone home" or "returned to base camp" but was mostly associated with Scouts who had died, or "gone home". And as Christians, we speak of departed saints as having "gone home to be with the Lord".

So where is "home"? Is it a place, a presence, or a state of mind? And if we truly acknowledge that we are "in this world, and not of it", with our stay here being a mere 70-90 years on average, perhaps we need to expand our consciousness of "home" beyond our earthly four walls.

I don't have the answer at this stage, but as with many things, the journey is often more important than the destination...

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