They arrived in the fall, still shell-shocked by their tortuous journey from a small Vietnamese village where news of the world, let alone the United States, was practically non-existent. Uoc and Bay were the older couple—in their early 20s. They came with two small children and with Bay’s younger sister and her husband. None of them spoke any English. None of them were literate in their own language. They were simply and not so simply trying to survive. Through all the losses, all the chaos, their painful search was for safety, security, home. Now, nearly 40 years later, I still feel their longing.

Linda was adopted as an infant. Her devoted parents showered her with a secure home, the riches of family life, unconditional love. Now in her 70s and with a growing family of her own, she longed to know more about her birth mother and father, possible siblings, the people with whom she shared genetic similarities. She wanted the wholeness of knowing herself more fully in order to understand some of her own characteristics, talents, interests—a way of coming home to herself.

For many years my spouse and I took turns making, serving and sharing meals at a local homeless shelter. One winter when our daughters were still at home, we all celebrated Christmas dinner with the residents at the shelter. Their palpable fragility and vulnerability exposed our own uneasiness, our own awareness of privilege, our own avoidance of brokenness. And yet there was a tangible sense of home in that shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

These are among the stories we will examine in this new series on finding home.

What is it like to be a refugee fleeing unimaginable suffering and loss of identity? How much desperation and fear does it take to leave the only home you know—a home you know you will never see again? When every door has closed, when daily life is unbearable, when one’s very identity is shattered, what is home like? What, exactly, is home?

In this series, I want to reflect on the physical, spiritual and metaphorical meanings of home. As many of us watch a precarious world from the comfort and security of our homes, can we ever be truly home?

In this series, I want to reflect on the physical, spiritual and metaphorical meanings of home.

What does it mean to “be home” for others—a safe place, a secure place, a place of grace? What does it mean to “be home” ourselves, for ourselves? When we sometimes comment about a person who seems comfortable and confident as being “at home in their own skin,” what does that mean?

Home always has been a primary part of my identity. For me, creating and making a home is primal, instinctual, spiritual. When my children were growing up, we often talked with them about how important it is to be “at home” in many different places.

In part, we wanted them to be able to adapt and adjust to the moves and travel of their childhood. It was also our way of helping them know the importance of rootedness. But perhaps stronger than either of these was our desire for them to be at home with themselves and at home in a fascinatingly diverse world.

We are God’s home and the whole world is the house of God, our literal physical and spiritual home. As you consider the places where you find home, may you be home not only for yourself but also for others, making space for compassion and kindness, familiarity and difference, shelter and security, places where God dwells. Finding home—making home—is a radical act of claiming a place in the world. Join us here in our search for home.

Julie K. Aageson
Aageson is the former coordinator of ELCA resource centers. She is the author of Benedictions: 26 Reflections (Wipf and Stock, 2016) and Holy Ground: An Alphabet of Prayer (Cascade, 2018), among other books, and wrote a column for Gather magazine for 10 years.

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