By Kathy Berken
It’s said you can’t go home again. Is that because “home” is a place long ago? A comforting memory from your childhood? Or smells, sounds, images of a time that brought you joy, where you felt secure with people you loved who also loved you? Is the cliché “home is where the heart is” accurate? Certainly. But there’s more.
When I was very little, my grandmother had a stroke, leaving her blind and disabled. She sat for 10 years, unable to see, causing her to become increasingly depressed. Often, I remember hearing Nana cry out, “Mother, take me home!” It was frightening because I didn’t know what she wanted and I couldn’t help her.
I contend that we can go home again. I believe that we are constantly being drawn by God’s love to come home to God’s heart. And I don’t necessarily mean heaven. I mean that God continuously invites us to rest in the heart of the Beloved. It is there that we find home. Right here, right now.
How do we do that? Ironically, retreats, vacations and getting away don’t always bring us home. Have you ever taken a vacation and said when you got back, “I need a vacation from my vacation!” Have you gone on a retreat to get away, but you carried all your burdens with you and never found peace? Do weekends just become alternate workdays, so you don’t ever really rest?
Coming home to God’s heart is not just for those people who have plenty of time on their hands or who have somehow mastered the art of detachment, but it is for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Over the years, I’ve found moments of being home with God regardless of what I was doing or where I was. It happened most often when I lived with the core members at The Arch, L’Arche in Clinton, where you might think it would be the most challenging place to get away and rest in God’s heart.
One time I was faced with a threatening situation where someone’s anger escalated into a threat to harm me. Victor, a man with Down syndrome (who has since died), sensed the danger and, after help arrived, took my hand and walked with me to the couch. We sat down and he just held my hand. No words, no fanfare, just a simple gesture of kindness. God was present in Victor’s compassion and I was safe in God’s heart.
The barometer I use to measure what it feels like to experience being in God’s heart is similar to the physical feeling of being outside on that perfect day in perfect weather where you don’t notice temperature or wind. It’s a place to just be.
I get that feeling when I’m in the woods. Once I was on a retreat in northern California near an old-growth forest. I came across a giant sequoia that was carved out to allow people to go inside. I went in alone, placed both my hands on the far wall of the tree, and closed my eyes. I felt as if I was being embraced. I stood there a few minutes, then went out and told the others to go in and do what I did. They all said they felt as if they had gotten a hug! It was a moment of being home in God’s love through God’s creation.
I am home when I have an authentic conversation with someone, make bread in my grandmother’s bread bowl or cook with my grandchildren. When I try too hard to look for these things, they don’t appear. It’s in the daily living and paying attention to what I’m experiencing that I find these moments of grace.
I think Jesus was at home on the boat fishing with his disciples, in the Upper Room sharing bread and wine with his friends at table, on the mountainside preaching the Good News to anyone who would listen. Where are you most at home in God’s love?
(Kathy Berken has a master’s degree in theology from St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minn. She lived and worked at The Arche, L’Arche in Clinton (1999-2009) and is author of “Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark (stories from The Arch).”)