When we first started living in this old house in 1969, I never gave a thought to how many times I would leave and return to its backdoor. It was the family home. When you’re fifteen, you don’t think about these things. At that point, I only knew I planned to leave.
I went off to college the fall of ‘73 so although I have often said, Todd and I live in the house I grew up in, you can see that’s not altogether true. Even though I did return home eventually to stay, my earlier idea of home was that it was always in me. That seems strange to say for someone who never felt her faith measured up.
But I wonder now, maybe I am finally returning to the true home I knew innately was inside me all along, and at some point, started doubting. I knew I was loved. That lived inside me. It was my greatest gift. The problem was, I didn’t know how to protect it. I had to learn. That took time and wisdom. Wisdom gained through failing.
Maybe this seems redundant, we often talk about “coming home”, about “returning”, I do. Because it’s a beautiful feeling. I am like a snail moving through life, my home always with me. I am not a butterfly, I am not a bird, I am a snail, oh, so slowly covering territory. There is no need for hurry or flight or flurry. I stay near the water and prefer it there.
And in accepting this about myself, I am, oh so content to be a snail.
As much as I love living in the old family home, and when I say old, I’m not being facetious. The old house is 125 years old, at least, but the “home” part of living here is not in the cedar walls surrounding me, not in the cedar beams above me, not in the wood floors beneath my feet. As a I said, the home part is in me. But I can also say, those were happy years, ‘69-‘73. Ironically, or not, they are the years I met and hung out with my now husband. Todd.
Maybe I would return over the years that followed because I wanted to somehow recreate that time in the early seventies. The best part of my life seemed to be the time we had together as a family—the ski trips to Powderhorn Mountain in Michigan when Todd came too, tobogganing down St. Mary’s Hill, the camping trips like Aspen in the summertime, riding horses on trails in the crisp air on sun drenched mornings, bending over to wash our hair in the crystal cold stream.
Looking back, we were a world onto ourselves with many friends and a lot of laughter. That’s what I remember. We were healthy and happy in this house.
Sure, like everyone else, we had our small issues. But they were just that, so seemingly small. We had each other, our friends and neighbors. We became a big family. We had a special block, with annual block parties. But underneath it all, there was another world that was not all well and good.
There was the war in Vietnam and trouble in the White House. Watergate happened. Assassinations happened, and it was out of that darkness that Jesus came walking on the waves to us. It wasn’t yet dawn when he came to our house. I didn’t see him. How did the others? Who saw him first? I don’t remember. The moon was hidden in the clouds that exploded with thunder and shot out blasts of lightening.
It must have been the lightening that revealed his form as we were buffeted by the pounding rains, as the wind whipped and I clung to my seat as if that would save my life. What does it take for a soul to cry out like Peter, “Save me, Lord!” And when we do, he reaches out his hand to those of little faith, like me, and the winds die down.
What do you think it took for me to see the Son of God at work in my life? What do you think it took to build God into my narrative? Because there were so many times, and still are, when I lean into the story of faith, and at other times when I do not. What happened?
Kierkegaard says it like this, “God creates everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use he first reduces to nothing.”
Or Thomas Merton, “It was a lucky wind—That blew away his halo with his cares—A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.”
Some might call it the “good” or necessary suffering we need in order to get on with our journeys, to grow up. It’s when we stop looking backward or forward to gain insight and understanding, because we’ve looked back with grace and forward with trust. We simply stop that and focus on living fully in the present. I stop telling my husband and my son that I have found the special way and can now recommend it to all. What do I know?
None of this, of finding this place, this home, happened because of me. If Christ came in the flesh, those bones of his have filled my bones with inexplicable life. God lives in my bones and empty tank.
I may be just another ordinary “girl” but I have the freedom to live, to exist and that makes everything extraordinary. To live beyond what I once wanted, beyond others opinions and demands and approval, beyond the enticing motives of fame and success. I have moved out of the Driver’s seat. I am happy to be along for the ride.
I’ve been brought here, carried. I have tried to bring others with me and failed. I tried to carry it all for so long. When you face your fear that your faith is not enough, and the seemingly endless self-doubt brought on, not necessarily by yourself but by those good-intentioned, good people who do not understand you, who have criticized you behind your back, and maybe even delighted in that because it made them feel good or at least better about their own “rides”, sometimes in, other times out of, the Driver’s seat. But they probably won’t realize or admit this.
Be still then. You may have reached the point where there are no more good people to try to imitate. Only One holy One.
It’s no unimportant thing to say that the cedar walls and beams and wood floors are gone. The world below those happy years has been revealed, the stormy seas—the world with its winds and waves as high as the mountains I sledded and skied down and road horses up—that surround us, that beat on our walls, pound on the rooftops, and incessantly knock at the door. We ask, is there no place safe? Certainly not in paradise. Particularly not in paradise.
I sit listening to the recycling truck. As I peer out the window, I become quite aggravated that people don’t follow the directions to keep the wheels of their bins facing away from the street. It makes so much extra work for the workers. The rains are pounding, the wind is shaking the house. Lightening strikes and the cat runs for hiding. I do not. It will all clear up soon.
“It would be a beautiful blizzard if it were three degrees colder,” Todd says as he sits down for breakfast. What a difference three degrees make. Is there a lesson in all this? No. There is no moral to the story, only that particularly in paradise darkness lurks and exposes itself. The only safe place to go is within. Home is but a metaphor. The words, “Lord save us” is the safe place.
A part of me will always be a little homesick for the sounds of my brothers’ voices with their friends on the third floor and the billiard balls knocking against each other, the sound of the chair as my father pushes away from the kitchen table. The sound of my sister’s whispers and giggles. And at times, I literally ache for the sounds of my mother’s music coming from the piano she played with such precision and beauty as she sang.
The stillness comes, the storm is calmed, the raindrops are now clinging to the glass on the window, the winds have died down. I can hear the quiet. I’m home and it has nothing to do with the house I returned to—the house of my youth.
But I am home.
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15