Longing for Home

Before I moved to Nashville two years ago, I used to make the trip over from Chattanooga every Tuesday. For two years, I drove up for an 8:30 AM meeting with other composers and score nerds to listen to music and talk about it and learn what we could from the masters, and in the evening I went to a Bible study taught by Mike Card, and later, after Mike’s ended, one taught by Shaun Groves and Brian Seay. During the day, I usually hung out at Centennial Park in downtown Nashville, writing and listening to music and reading. Because I drove back to Chattanooga late at night, sometimes I would take an afternoon nap in my car. I still remember, vividly, one day, about three years ago, when I woke up suddenly from a deep sleep, feeling completely and utterly alone. It was different from anything I had felt before. There was a profound sense of desperation, panic even, a feeling that I had no place to fall, no one to catch me if I did fall. A feeling that I was adrift and didn’t have anything to hold on to, a mourning for the loss of childhood innocence and safety and home. And, in a sense, that feeling, that loneliness, has never left.

I thought of that experience again yesterday while reading the latest post by Eric Peters at The Rabbit Room. Eric wrote:

I am unsettled today. Between the pauses in snowfall, briskly three-dimensional and aloof, I sense a strange lag inside my own skin. Just now, I feel foreign to my space in the world. I am weary of winter and the gray concoctions that inhabit seemingly every second. I find myself longing for more than just the temporal warmth and spring and rebirth of earth and its mavens…

I would wish to be settled, to be at peace with this skin I am given, to pause and recognize that my being foreign to this world is not necessarily all that terrible a thing. For however long I yearn for tomorrow, however deeply I long for rebirth, however fearful or comfortable I am with myself is, in some small measure, an entrenched and guttural hope that God continues to prepare a place at his festival table for the slow and peculiar creatures we are, and the blessings we both unknowingly bestow and undeservedly receive amid all our faith and lack thereof. (full post here)

And while reading that, I was reminded also of a passage from the last book I read by my favorite writer, Frederick Buechner (also a favorite of Eric). In the first chapter, he writes this:

In a novel called Treasure Hunt, which I wrote some years ago, there is a scene of homecoming. The narrator, a young man named Antionio Parr, has been away for some weeks and on his return finds that his small son and some other children have made a sign for him that reads WELCOME HONE with the last little leg of the M in home missing so that it turns it into an n. “It seemed oddly fitting,” Antionio Parr says when he first sees it. “It was good to get home, but it was home with something missing or out of whack about it. It wasn’t much, to be sure, just some minor stroke or serif, but even a minor stroke can make a major difference.”

If we are lucky, we are born into a home, or like me find a home somewhere else along the way during childhood, or, failing that, at least, one hopes, find some good dream of a home. And, if your luck holds, when we grow up, we make another home for ourselves and for our family if we get married and acquire one. It is the place of all places that we fell most at home in, most at peace and most at one in, and as I sketched out in my mind that scene in my novel, I thought of it primarily as a scene that would show Antionio Parr’s great joy at returning to his home after such a long absence. But then out of nowhere, and entirely unforeseen by me, there came into my mind that sign with the missing leg of the m. I hadn’t planned to have it read hone instead of home. It was in no sense a novelistic device I’d contrived. It’s simply the way I saw it. From as deep a place within me as my books and my dreams come from, there came along with the misspelled sign this revelation that although Antionio Parr was enormously glad to be at home at last, he recognized that there was something small but crucial missing,which if only for a moment made him feel, like Gideon and Barak before him, that he was in some sense a stranger and an exile there. It is when he came home that he recognized most poignantly that he is, at a deep level of his being, homeless, and that whatever it is that is missing, he will spend the rest of his days longing for it and seeking to find it.

~ Frederick Buechner – The Longing for Home: Recollections and Reflections

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