Lately I’ve been thinking about one of the places where the Bible uses the language of ‘home’: Luke 15, known commonly as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The story includes a homecoming: a wayward son welcomed by His father. “Bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
But what is home? Home is more of idea—often romanticized by our memories—than a specific spatial reality. The physicality of home often disappoints, or at least fails to match our memory of it. Those who have returned to a childhood home only to realize it’s not the magical (or big!) place they remembered can testify to this truth. What really makes a place a home are relationships of intimacy and of love.
And yet the idea of home remains compelling for us, evoking within us a longing for the comfort, safety, and happiness we associate with home. Home is a powerful and important concept because we find ourselves often in rootless, dislocating, and uneasy situations (whether caused by economic instability or personal friction).
Our experiences of home—our archetypal ideas of home—exist as a signal of transcendence for us. That is, they signal that we belong to something greater. They signal that, in a spiritual sense, we all are exiles. We all are homeless. We all long for home.
The Bible says that a lasting home awaits those who know God. It’s called heaven and it’s a truth that offers great comfort along this fractured path of life. Because that home awaits, there’s great value for us to allow experiences of home here and now guide us towards that lasting, true, and final home.
I’ll end with the most evocative picture of home I’ve stumbled across comes from the end of Leif Enger’s novel, Peace Like a River.
“Don’t you ever doubt [heaven]?” Davy asked.
And in fact I have. And perhaps will again. But here is what happens. I look out of the window at the red farm–for here we live, Sara and I, in a new house across the meadow, a house built by capable arms and open lungs and joyous sweat. Maybe I see our daughter, home from school, picking plums or apples for Roxanna; maybe one of our sons, reading on the grass or painting an upended canoe. Or maybe Sara comes into the room–my darling Sara–with Mr. Cassidy’s beloved rolls on a steaming plate. Then I breathe deeply, and certainty enters into me like light, like a piece of science, and curious music seems to hum inside my fingers.