Home and Belonging

Like all of us, I have contradictory impulses. I find in myself seemingly opposed desires, and tendencies, which operate with greater or lesser strength at different times.

One of those for me has to do with a sense of home and belonging. On the one hand, I have a strong desire to be free to go wherever God calls me. I have what one of my friends termed a strong missionary streak and that side of me likes the idea of being ready and able to pick up and go wherever I am led by the Spirit, be it Nepal and India (as I did in my younger days) or Minnesota (where I am now), without anything to hinder me. That is the side of me that sees my path as a series of pilgrimages. The side of me that gets nervous when I feel like I have too many belongings, too much “stuff.” For that part of me, notions like “home” and “belonging” have no place.

But there is also a part of me that desires to feel a sense of home, to feel like I belong somewhere. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that in most periods of my life I have not felt a sense of home and belonging, feeling like I didn’t (and don’t) fully fit in wherever I am. There has often times been a feeling of rootlessness and homelessness. And sometimes feeling rootless and homeless bothers me, making me feel unanchored and alone.

I’ve been sitting with a question my spiritual director asked me the other day when we were talking about this. She asked, “Do you want to pray to feel more at home here [in the Twin Cities]?” As soon as she asked it, I realized it was a question I couldn’t answer on the spot.

I spent a long time sitting with the question and what I came to realize is that the answer to it is No. When I look at the two contradictory tendencies and ask myself that question, I realize that the deeper desire is for it not to be important that I feel at “home” in any physical place here. That what I want most deeply is to be totally willing and free to go wherever God may want to send me. I think of the line in Matthew’s passage where Jesus observes that “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” and I want it to not matter where I lay my head.

When I can get in touch with that deeper desire, I can recognize that the feelings of homelessness and rootlessness, and perhasp even the desire for a sense of home, is a reflection of Augustine’s recognition that “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” That doesn’t mean the feeling of homelessness won’t continue to well up and occasionally make me feel sad. But it does help me to understand and accept the feeling for what is it when it arises.