I’ve thought a lot about home since getting back to Spain at the end of July. There’s so much about South Africa that became home to us. The smell of the salt and the kelp as it rolled in over the beach; the view of the craggy hillside from Ou Kaapse Weg; the wind as it buffeted and bullied us from one place to another. And this physical feeling of home was all tied up with the rootedness of relationships, with feeling that space was made for us, for who we really are; the feeling that we are seen and received.
And then there’s the memories. Every day of our visit it felt like a memory of some sort was waiting to poke its head out of the backdrop and into the foreground of my mind. The climbing and treasure hunt birthday party we held for Keziah just over there; the ordinariness of standing in the middle of Pick & Pay; walking past the train station in Kalk Bay, or driving over Boyes Drive towards our old house. Each memory was like a sort of safety line that anchored us to this experience of home.
I guess there was a sort of homecoming in returning to Spain. Our physical home is a place of order and beauty that I love to return to, a place of retreat as well as a place we have sought to gather community. It is a place with a growing stock of memories - of my sister being here, of bringing our puppy home, of Christmas carols and summer paella parties.
There is still this faint edge of anxiety, though, when I venture beyond these walls. I rally myself to speak Spanish, to find my way in unfamiliar streets, to make peace with being 'on the back foot,' a couple of steps behind everyone else in understanding the world around me. Does a place only become home when you feel at ease at the helm of your own life?
This tension between feeling at home and braving the world outside of home makes me think of Keziah. This is her overriding experience of school, that she has to live in a world in which she does not feel she belongs; an experience that requires more energy and resolve than is comfortable. I am trying to teach her that this is the nature of our lives here on earth; the Kingdom is already here and yet not in its fulness. We are required to feel ‘not at home’ while we wait for the full experience of homecoming.
Perhaps this is why - when we were preparing to move to Spain and I was praying wordless prayers that God would provide for us a home I could love - He asked me to let Him be my home. At the time, I wasn’t sure I knew what that meant. What would it look like for me to find my place of retreat in God? For me to be most comfortable and at ease in His presence? For me to return to Him to restore my energy for a fresh excursion into the waiting world? What would it feel like to find in Father, Son and Holy Spirit my richest experience of relationship and community, of belonging and rootedness?
I didn’t know. I considered this invitation as a sort of metaphor for making God Number 1 in my life. I didn’t really think of it as an invitation into a lived experience; it was a truth that was beyond knowing for me, at that time.
I think I am easing towards it now. I find myself imagining the felt presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with me and surrounding me - and not just me, but us - in a way that is my home. The place I launch from into the world, the place I return to with a deep knowing of being received. I wonder if, rather than memories, I can find habits that will be my safety lines, my anchor point in a reality that is felt but not seen. And can I be at home with others here, sharing moments of connection and reminder that go beyond what might be considered normal?
I breathe in deeply, and my senses remember the smell of the salt and the kelp on the air rolling off the ocean. From one continent to another, home has come with me and is carried within.