I have only ever lived in a few places. Well, four, actually. Most of my life I have lived in the general vicinity of where I live right now. The house I grew up in is only about a half hour from my house now. In college, I lived in a town about an hour and a half away. The other places I have lived were Kumamoto, Japan, for three years, Denver, Colorado, for one year, and Vienna, South Dakota, for four years. Otherwise, it's been pretty much here, in this largish city known for its parks and lakes and cold winters, the place where my Scandinavian grandparents came, and stayed, many years ago.
I suppose this is my home.
I envy people who have lived many places. I wonder what it feels like, sometimes, to have experienced many geographies, many terrains. For myself, it is hard to imagine living anywhere else. Then I stop and consider that I have lived other places, although briefly.
I don't know whether I ever considered those other places "home"; I somehow always thought that the compass would point me back here, eventually, that I would wander, but that I would return.
Even so, when I left those other places, I cried. Every time. When I left Japan after those three years, I wrote back to my Japanese friends, and said that I felt 'natsukashii' for Japan. I thought that it meant 'nostalgic,' or that I was simply saying that I missed Japan. But they told me that I couldn't miss Japan; I couldn't be 'natsukashii', because the word really meant 'homesick', and Japan was not my home.
I cried at the end of that year in Denver too. All the way to Cheyenne, driving north, I cried. And I cried when I left after those four years in the big parsonage in rural South Dakota. Even though I was coming home.
What is home, exactly? I am not sure. Even though I call this city 'home', I feel like I have left a part of myself in Denver, South Dakota and Japan. Each place feels a little bit like home to me, even though I may never see it again.
I think about pastors who have obeyed the Spirit's call to parishes in different parts of the country, or at least in different cities. If God has called you to Nebraska and to North Dakota, and to Wisconsin, what is home?
Home is a place, but it's not a place, exactly. Home is a starting point. From home you know which way is north, even if later in your travels you get confused. Home is where you are comfortable giving other people directions. "Home" is a foundation, but it's a destination. It's where we are from, but it's where we are headed.
Home is where, finally, you know who you are.
Maybe that's why I cried, when I left those other places. I knew something about myself when I lived in those places, something different than what I know right now.
I have only ever lived in a few places. And all of them, and none of them, have been home.