The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Searching for Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls by M. Craig Barnes.
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It doesn’t matter where you move, how fast you run, or how many new identities you try on along the way, you can’t escape the longing for home. Most people don’t destroy their families and homes in order to die alone in an old camping trailer. Right. But we all leave home, and, like my Dad, we never recover from it.
Even if you stay in the same community in which you were raised, which is rather unusual today, you’re stuck with the same longing the rest of us have because the community itself has changed. Sometimes it is we who leave home, sometimes it is home that leaves us, but an inescapable dynamic of life today is that we are a long way from where we used to be.
The only approximation we have of our true home with God is the place where we grew up. For some that was such a terrible place that the approximation is pale, and they never want to return there. For others the childhood home was a place filled with delightful memories for which they are thankful, but from which they are not trying to recover. They’ve moved on. But in either case leaving home as a young adult sets an agenda in our souls to find a new place where we belong.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau about 43 million Americans move in an average year. That accounts for 16 percent of the population who are hitting the road every year. And for the most part it’s a different 16 percent that move the next year, and a different group the year after that. Pretty soon the numbers add up. The typical American is now expected to move fourteen times over the course of his or her life.
Why are so many of us constantly moving from one place to another? If you ask people that question, and I have certainly asked plenty, the most common answer involves work. As the geographer David Sopher has claimed, “It is the property of vegetables to remain rooted.” Our society has taught us from an early age to move ahead in life, and after going away to college we discover that our next move is getting the best job we can, and then an even better job, and then a better one after that. These jobs are usually all in different places. Work may be the excuse for our transiency, and it may even be the only reason of which we are consciously aware. But the pastor in me has been digging deeper to discover what is it that drives us to accept these job offers that make us pack up and take off again.
The answer of the Scriptures to this deeper questions is that from the beginning we have been searching for paradise. We think that the next place, where a more lucrative job is waiting, will afford us a better chance of creating it for ourselves. But it never quite works out that way. The house may be bigger, but we were never really looking for that. We’re looking for home.
Before long the new place into which we have moved is marred by all of the pressures that we thought we had left behind in the old one. Stress always seems to be conveyed from one house to the next. In our disillusionment, we find other ways of distracting ourselves and staying on the move, even though our address has not yet changed. . . .
We’re yearning for home, and home has nothing to do with how good the place is. It has everything to do with whether or not it is the right place. And the right place isn’t something you choose, but a place that chooses you, molds you, and tells you who you are.