Going Home

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. ~ John 15:4 (The Message)

The summer after I graduated from Wylie High School, I loaded up my bright orange Buick Skylark with everything I needed—sheets, blankets, clothes, and a dictionary—for college. Mom and Dad did not give me my inheritance early, but they did fill my car up with gas, and they gave me a fifty-dollar bill for the road.

I thought I was in heaven, no more parental oversight. I was leaving home for the first time! Mom cried all summer thinking about the day I would leave for school while Dad and I stoically held our emotions in check. We avoided the conversation when it came up at dinner time. When it was time to say good-bye, Mom wrapped her arms around me, told me she loved me and how proud she was of me. Dad stepped out of the shadows of the garage, shook my hand, and then embraced me fully with his heart and soul. Neither one of us could speak as our throats tightened and the tears came down.

I got in my car, turned the radio on, and I drove away without looking back at my parents holding each other and standing in the driveway of my youthful dreams and hopes. My sadness faded as I got closer to Amarillo and my new home for the next four years.

I met new friends, set my own schedule, and went to bed whenever I felt like it. I was free. Mom dutifully called every Sunday night to see how her “baby” was doing. On my birthday each year, the dorm office would announce over the loudspeaker, “Craig Paschal, please come to the front desk. Your mother has sent you a birthday cake.” I would blush when I would pick up the cake and Mr. Hensley, the dorm director, would say, “Your Mommy loves you, Craig.” My dormmates appreciated the cake more than me.

I went home at Christmas and for the summer but did not feel any pressing need to go home. Then towards the end of my junior year with the responsibilities of full adulthood looming, I became homesick. I wanted to go home.

What and where is home? Felicia Murrell, an ordained minister, writes, “Diana Ross sings, ‘When I think of home, I think of a place where there’s love overflowing.’ Is home synonymous with love and affection? Is home a place you long to return to?”

God is love (1 John 4:16) and love is home. Murrell comments, “Home is both an external dwelling and an internal abode. Home is the place where we belong, our place of acceptance and welcome.”

I wanted to go home for Mother’s Day, yet for some “home is terror, a place to flee with no desire to return or revisit. This is important to name and acknowledge because too many are aimlessly wandering, feeling insignificant—unseen, unknown,” writes Murrell.

One of the reasons I love our Mother God and Father God so much is she always invites us home to a place of unconditional acceptance. Murrell calls God’s house a “shame and judgment-free embryonic cocoon of love where we learn to relate to ourselves and the world around us.” When we go home, God, filled with compassion, runs out to greet us, hugs and kisses us, and throws a party in our honor. We might object, say we are unworthy, but Mother God just loves us (see Luke 15). “At home, there’s no need to guess whether we’re in or out, welcomed or not,” says Murrell.

“Make your home in me, as I make my home in you,” Jesus says (John 15:4). Christ dwells in us and invites us to dwell in him says Henri Nouwen. God’s home is full of love, forgiveness, and renewal. The House of God transforms the world and us. Nouwen asks, “Is it possible to live in the house of love, or are we so accustomed to living in fear that we become deaf to the voice that says, ‘Do not be afraid’”?

Towards the end of my junior year in college, I wanted to go home. My best friend Mark and I left Amarillo around 1:30 A.M. Sunday morning, and we drove all night to my hometown, Wylie, Texas. I did not even bother to go to my family’s house at 305 Wilson Road. I knew where Mom and Dad would be on Sunday morning at 10:30 A.M. I found a parking spot on the street a block away from the Wylie United Methodist Church.

I walked up the front steps and through the front doors like I did every Sunday when I was growing up. The new kids on the block were bringing in the light and I walked to the far-right pews where we always sat. I touched Mom on the back of her shoulder, and she turned towards me. We baptized each other in our tears. I was home.

“Home is a place where we are free to take our deepest, fullest, least encumbered breath,” writes Murrell.

Our homes can be complex, yet Christ dwells in us, and invites us to dwell in Him. May we find an eternal home in the loving embrace of heaven’s Grace.

Blessings and peace,

Craig