This year the UCC has an online study community on Facebook, called “Longing for Home”. Each Friday a contributor is asked to write a reflection piece on what the phrase “Longing for Home” means for them. This is the piece I wrote. It’s up on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/LongingforHome/?ref=br_tf), but you can read it here, good folk of Cedar Park (and others who follow this blog).
“Longing for Home.” It’s a wonderful title for our Lenten Series, but…..what if you don’t…What if “Home” is not something you long for, but rather, dread? What if you are the kid who stays after school to help the janitor clean the classrooms, or count the paperclips….anything to delay returning to a broken home? What if you are the parent, or the spouse who stays late at work, with oh-so-important deadlines to meet….. just not the appointment with chaos, or catastrophe, or unutterable misery, at home?
Home can be the antithesis of longing or belonging. Home can be hell. Home can be broken.
How, then, can “home” be the very thing we long for, if body and soul are bruised by the brokenness of our experience of home? I don’t know, how, but I know it’s true. St. Augustine would say that it’s part of the essence of our humanness to have hearts/souls which are restless until they find their home in God. Longing for “home” is hardwired into our humanity.
I remember discovering a poem (now I sound like our Moderator!) by James Merrill, “Broken Home,” at a time in my life when home was most definitely broken, fractured not only by a sibling’s death, but also the shattered relationships that her death precipitated. Merrill writes of catching a glimpse through a window of an unbroken family, parents and child “gleaming like fruit with evening’s mild gold leaf” while his own sunless existence is pale and waxy in comparison. (http://macaulay.cuny.edu/…/s…/files/2010/08/Broken-Home1.pdf)
I remember that view all too well, longing for the ‘evening gold’ that I imagined tinted the existence of every other home but mine. A more strident poetry tells the same tale of longing for home, community and connectedness, forged in the furnace of a broken home in Punk Rock band Papa Roach’s “Broken Home”Push it back inside It feels bad to be alone Crying by yourself, living in a broken home. How could I tell it so y’all could feel it? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwx0ug_sdxolink ).
This longing for home, both poignant and strident, runs through the Joseph narrative in Genesis, chapters 37,39-50. Parental favoritism and spoiled childhood, sibling betrayals, slavery, attempted seduction, imprisonment, famine, deceit, and the subsequent rise to power of Joseph as Pharaoh’s vizier were never enough to erase Joseph’s longing for home, nor his father’s longing for reconciliation and the mending of his broken family. As in most stories of brokenness and longing for home, the homecoming is scarred somehow by the brokenness. Jacob did not live to see his family return home from Egypt. Neither did Joseph ever see the old home he longed for. But what about the mending and the homecoming of the heart? Well, thanks be to God, that happened. It still does.