Coming HomeSeptember 19th, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to spend a few days in Anaheim, CA with my husband who was presenting at a national convention. It was cool to see another small part of our country for the first time, and I found it fascinating that people really do wear Mickey Mouse ears on the street near Disneyland!
Anyway, as gorgeous as California was, I wasn’t sorry to head home. That day was perfect for flying, and I was enjoying watching the changing landscape from my window seat. What I was not prepared for, however, was how my throat clenched when eventually I looked down and saw green fields, rather than the previous dusty brown hills. And when we reached the Illinois, Indiana and then Ohio farm fields I was thrilled. “Home,” I thought, “almost home!” And how beautiful (as several Californians reminded me), this green state really is, even though we who are here every day seldom recognize it as such. We do a great job complaining about the humidity or the drought, the snow or (near me) how flat it is. We forget to look at its bountiful magnificence, rather than the imperfections.
As director of adult faith formation for our region I hear lots of stories about peoples’ desire, their restless longing, for “home.” Sometimes I tell the story about the period years ago, when after a major altercation at our then parish my family too became “homeless.” For a time we wandered from parish to parish, eventually joining the ranks of those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Feeling betrayed by church, we spent our time elsewhere.
I explored other faith traditions, checking out the Brethren, the Lutherans, even our local Quakers. Nothing else, however, really “fit.” I missed the community, the sacramental worldview, the social justice focus, especially the Eucharist of the Catholic Church. Looking back now, I see us wandering in the desert, wondering where home was to be.
One weekend by chance, we ended up at a 4:30 Mass at a local parish we previously hadn’t attended. The usher at the door asked us if we would take up the gifts; I responded that this was our first time at the parish. “Well, that’s okay,” was his response. “We’re all part of the family, right? And we’re so very glad you’re here!”
I don’t remember much about that Mass, except that I spent most of it trying not to bawl. Somehow, almost despite my protestations, we had been led home. And what a wonderful place it was! Nope, not perfect, by any means. Some minor cracks in the walls, dirty floors , peeling paint and weeds to be pulled, but still….beautiful. Full of all too human, flawed members and leaders, but also the God who sustains, it was, and continues as it was meant to be. It seems it was our absence – and that persistent longing – that helps us appreciate now what this is really about.
I’m so glad to have come home. Thank God.