Enjoying a vacation to my home state of Missouri this week. Rolled into town a week ago from Texas — 13 hours / 20 minutes from Katy, TX to Florissant, MO — just in time for fireworks. Have spent the past seven days catching up with family and friends, mostly, while mixing in some down time to play board games, read books, and sleep in. It has been incredible.
Coming back to Missouri always introduces a tension in my brain as I try to sort out where home is. In Katy, when we told people where we were going for vacation, we’d say, “home,” meaning Missouri. While we’re here, if we’re out with friends and it’s time to go we say, “Time to head home,” meaning my mother-in-law’s place. When we scampered down to Salem, Missouri for a couple days to see my folks I told the St. Louis people I was headed “home.” And as our trip winds down we tell folks we’re here until Saturday and then we’re headed “home.”
For those that have moved around this comes as no shocker. “Home” is hard to pin down. I have lived in several towns in my life, never once itching to leave any. I was born in Alton, Illinois, spent five years in Bland, Missouri, and moved to Salem, MIssouri through graduation. I lived in Florissant, Missouri for five years (college plus one), Moweaqua, Illinois for a year and a half, and then Florissant again for about six. Then we moved to Katy, Texas, where we’ve lived the past two flips of the calendar. At one point or another, I’ve called all these places “home.”
But which one is the capital “H” Home?
On top of all that, I’ve lived in a dozen different dwelling places:
1. A big white house in Alton
2. An old white farm house in Bland
3. An underground house in Salem
4. A white farm house in Salem
5. Another underground house in Salem
6. The tiny white house my folks still own in Salem
7. A dormitory full of college guys in Florissant
8. A little one bedroom apartment in Florissant
9. A huge, 100 year old house in Moweaqua
10. A cute little starter house in Florissant
11. An upstairs set of rooms we resided in when we first moved to Texas (thanks, John & Cyndi!)
12. A way-too-big suburban house in Katy, Texas
They were all home and it’s hard for me to not think of any of them as such. Tears, laughs, meals, conversations, fights, and celebrations were shared in all of those houses. I was rocked to sleep and rocked my own kids to sleep. I was raised and I am raising my own children there. But which house was really Home.
And then there’s the people. In just this short little, week-long vacation, I’ve gathered with friends and family both familiar and distant. We’ve seen parents and siblings and uncles and others who we may as well share genetic composition with. I’ve been around farmers bucking hay bales and worshipped with urban hipsters in the middle of the city. I’ve sat with guys I went to college with and talked about ministry to refugees, suburbanites, and everything in between. I chomped on breakfast, lunch, and dinner with people who are fellow soldiers in the Kingdom, and been moved to hear stories of how God is moving in their lives. And regardless of the depth of the discussion or the brevity of the encounter, I’ve walked away feeling more satisfied. More encouraged. More inspired to keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing what I know God has called me to do: Preach, write, and give.
For my money, when it comes down to it, home is about people–not dots on a map or even houses made of brick and mortar. And I know that I’ve only scratched the surface this week. There are thousands of people scattered all over this planet who are home to me. They’ve made me who I am.
There are two uses of the word “home.” One is as a noun. It means what we usually think of when we think of “home.” A place. A house. A home town. But there’s also “home” as a verb. You’ve heard of homing devices or homing pigeons. The definition of that word strikes me as more accurate when I try to determine where my home is.
Home, as a verb, means, “to be guided to a destination by signals.”
And so home is the signals of life pushing me onward. Home is my dad, moving us from Alton to Bland to Salem. Home is my preacher encouraging me to attend St. Louis Christian College. Home is the friends I made in college who encouraged me in ministry. Home is the fine folks in Florissant who called me their own. Home are the wonderful people of Moweaqua, Illinois who took outsiders and made them feel like insiders, even if it was for a short time. Home is my wife and kids who have been with me along the way. Home is the hundreds of former students who I’m still Facebook friends with who at one point or another have gone out of their way to simply say, “thanks.” And home is a bunch of other people who –either briefly or consistently–have invested in me, my wife, my kids, and my life in some significant way or another. And home is the Lord, who has been the sturdiest, most constant signal of all, directing my steps all the way. Sometimes doing so in spite of me.
I go “home” to Katy, Texas in two days. But it’s not my only home. It’s just the most recent one. It’s one of many signals. I am thankful for it just as I am all the others. I’m more grateful that even when my place changes, my home does not. I never have to give up completely on any of these significant signals in my life, and I simply press on to the next place. The next people. The next influential experience.
Until then, I’ve got a choice to mourn the loss of a place. Or I can celebrate the presence of a great, big, giant thing to call home.