There is talk of moving house, and I am struggling. Desperately playing catch-up, because I thought there was much more time. I don’t have a reference point for finding it this hard, which makes me wonder whether I should. This is not the house I grew up in. This is not the home I imagined. And yet it is the place where my heart breathes out and the place I can run to, or could, or still can, but only just. We have been happy here. My fear is that more than just place is past.
I have written about home before and the restless feeling in my soul that nothing else seems to touch. The splinters that are smoothed only by caramel floors and dingoes howling at dusk. I love where my parents live fiercely, and nothing else feels like it, under my feet or in my soul. The thought of selling it feels like a betrayal, and so somehow I am angry as well. It is an affront to the thousand holes dug and plants lovingly patted and watched and watered and exclaimed over. The work was not of my hands, but I claim it, I hear its cry for recognition. It is an affront to the thousands of walks, tramping down twigs, slipping off logs, holding back jaws from hidden echidna’s. On those walks, the talk was often of the future, what this place would be when retirement came, when there was time and money and the impetus.
But now it has come, slow drops of time melting into each other, money in the bank, but no impetus to speak of. Desire replaced by aching bones. Suddenly now, when at last the future is here, everything is too hard to contemplate. And so it seems, cruellest of ironies, that the sweat of days snatched between Sydney commutes, readying this place for some mythical, magical summer was the only sweat that counted. There is to be no more.
The readying it seems, was the undoing. My father is worn out, and I can’t blame him, but I can be angry. I am angry at some nameless foe, who listened to all our excited talk of tomorrows knowing all the while that they would not be. Not God. I am not angry at God, am I? Surely not. Maybe time. Or sin. The brokenness, so that tomorrow never comes. Just give me an enemy to rail at, and please let’s not call him God, for a moment.
I am writing about ‘home’ for college - displacement and exile, land and place and memory and permanence – trying to understand it. I am not writing about my home per say, but I can’t switch off the internal monologue. I am disappointed, and betrayed and, don’t think I can’t hear it, infinitely selfish. Somehow I have made this all about me, my great talent. Me at the centre again.
Almost everything in this life of mine, here at college, is impermanent. With every dinner cooked for me, sink tidied, I am reminded that this is transitory, make-believe living. The life itself is real enough, but the home is a façade. I can not fit all my possessions in this room, and neither do I need to. I need a soupcon only, enough to get by. In a couple of years there will be need for that waffle maker, but not now. Everything confirms my suspicion that this is half pretend. And so with each thud of the axe on my far away home, my body shakes. Security ebbing away.
When did I become so wedded to the birdsong and the brambles? When did this place become something I held onto for dear life, closed fist, hidden behind me like maybe if I can block it from view you won’t take it away?
When did I start drawing this line in the sand, this much and no more, even while praying that ‘thy will be done’. For who am I kidding? This IS about God. I don’t understand, in this coming apart, what is happening. I don’t understand why.
(It is bigger than home you see, but home is my public cry. Other things too, unwritten, tear at the seams. Like a stress ball made of rice and balloons I try to pull enough layers over so it doesn’t come apart again, but I am powerless here. It is good that I am powerless. I cannot pretend for a moment that I can fix it with enough resolve or cheeriness. I cannot boss anyone enough to make this better, though goodness knows I’ve tried.)
A book** that I am reading today is simultaneously picking at and repairing the shredded plastic protection I pretend. The writers ground their understanding of home in the biblical narrative of creation, fall, exile and redemption. They write:
“…we are prepared to stake our lives on a biblical memory, a vision of life rooted in the narrative of the Old and New Testaments”
and I wonder if I am too. And I am, too.
“The biblical telling of things contains a profound memory of home, the painful experience of homelessness, and the ineluctable longing for homecoming… That story offers us a place beyond our placelessness, a place in nothing less than a new creation, the home for which we so deeply long”.
And today, in all my tired, in all my confusion about regret and loss, things unrealised, I am thankful for the promise of a home that does not spoil or fade. A home we do not look forward to, only to find out that the best is behind us. Where the promise is not better than the reality. Where the desire for peace will be outmatched by the actual peace, when it comes. And that truth, let in again, rushes around to soothe my thirsty soul. And it does not ebb away, it settles. Stays.
It’s not that I can’t wait, that I want it now. Rather it is, that once again, the very impermanence of this place points me to the only solid, enduring truth that will outlast and outstrip the safest caramel floor memories or wildest promise of summer imaginings. This place of beauty and brokenness is not my home. When I am tired beyond myself, or at my very best, may the same be true:
“On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
* ‘Candy Man’s Gone’ – Bruce Cockburn
** Beyond Homelessness – Christian Faith in a culture of displacement. Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh.