The Never-Ending Aching Need to Find Your Way Back Home

Joseph Serwach

Which people and places most make you feel like you’re home?

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Stories begin — and end — focused on a home. As most memories disappeared, one need remained: “I’ve gotta get home. I need to go home.’’

As her hearing, vision, strength, and recollections softly slipped away, something deep inside made her put on her coat and get her purse.

The caretakers assured the 92-year-old there was nowhere else to go, that she lived in her daughter’s house now. That universal urge remained: a certainty there’s another place fully our own.

“For the two of us, home isn’t a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” ― Stephanie Perkins.

New York Times: U.S. less mobile, most live within 50 miles of Mom

The New York Times researched this need to be near home back in 2015, finding “the typical American” lives within 18 miles of their mother, with 80 percent living within a couple hour’s drive.

Most who do leave home do so for job-related reasons. A Pew Research Center survey, making exceptions for people leaving home to go to college or join the military, found 37 percent of Americans said they never lived outside their hometown, and 57 percent never lived outside their home state.

Federal Reserve board research argues Americans are less mobile than in the 1980s as “internal migration” within the nation has diminished. In 2020, 52 percent of young Americans ages 18–29 moved back with parents during the pandemic.

Our instincts and traditions center around this need to find home:

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  • Hundreds of songs: From Simon and Garfunkel singing “Homeward Bound’’ to Michael Buble’s cry of “Let me go home’’ to “Sweet Home Alabama’’ to “Take Me Home Tonight’’ to “Take Me Home, Country Roads,’’ the message surrounds us.
  • Every kind of film touches on this story: From “Life as a House’’ to “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’’ (the most popular of the genre), to “Home Alone’’ to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas’’ to “Coming Home’’ to “Snoopy, Come Home.’’
  • The turning points of the Bible? Our first parents losing Paradise and far more exile stories about the need to get back home fill the Bible. The story of the Holy Family begins with Joseph and Mary needing to get back to an ancestral home, Bethlehem. They later fled to Egypt, again needing to find a way back home to Nazareth.

The Bible has at least 78 verses about “home” and even more on the journey seeking the way back to the Father and the Father’s house, the source of our existence. Jesus is The Way to get to that home.

“By wisdom, a house is built, by understanding it is established; And by knowledge, its rooms are filled with every precious and pleasing possession’’ (Proverbs 24:3–4).

In Isaiah 40, the exiled hear a voice in the desert telling them to “prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.’’ Jesus, we learn, is that highway, The Way.

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”― Robert Frost.

Bishop Robert Barron reflects on the stories of the best and brightest being exiled, stressing that exile is a good word for “sin,’’ something cutting us off from the Father and His home, which is Heaven. “God is now declaring I’m going to bring you back home.’’

“It’s time to come home,’’ Barron argues, recalling the “saddest’’ line from the Psalms is about sitting by the rivers of Babylon remembering Zion and asking, “How can we sing the song of the Lord on alien soil?’’

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”― Maya Angelou.
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St. Thomas Aquinas said we find truth and life in the Divinity of Jesus, but His humanity shows us He is The Way. The Good News, Bishop Barron adds, is God built the highway to get us through the desert by following Jesus, walking on the path we follow, The Way.

Simon and Garfunkel similarly describe Jesus, Barron says, when they describe someone who is “like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Jesus Himself is the bridge, the highway. Walk on the path. Jesus is leading us to the Father.’’

And the Father is Home.

“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” — Billy Graham.

From the beginning of time, we are given choices:

“If it is displeasing to you to serve the Lord, choose today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).

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John the Baptist returns to the Isaiah 40 message, saying we must prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. The exile now, he says, is a spiritual one, sin. When we sin, we wander far from where we are meant to be: home with God.

Jesus is the highway, The Way, taking us back to that home.

“My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.’’ (Isaiah, 32:18).

St. John, who knew Jesus best, explains, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (John 14:1–2).

“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” — Martin Luther.

Which people and places most make you feel like you’re “home?”

We can move so much in life that many places feel “like home’’ to me, including the place where we live now, the towns where I grew up, and the place at the beach where we go all the time.

“For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven... Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–8).

A non-Biblical figure, Pliny the Elder (23 AD — 79 AD), a Roman philosopher and military commander, was just a boy during Christ’s ministry. We don’t know what Pliny knew about Christ or Christianity, but we do know a maxim that is credited to him: “Home is where the heart is.’’

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” — St. Teresa of Calcutta.
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