The day before I left for London my friend Kirstin gave me some of her handmade cards decorated with koru designs and photos from her home town and surroundings in Otago/Southland. Kirstin, the resident artist at the Gordon’s out Tuapiro way and at St Paul’s in town, spent much of 2010 in South Africa and India – a seasoned traveller to be sure. She said that these cards were a good way to say thank you to people you stayed with and shared life with along the way. I was grateful for her advice, and the cards that accompanied it.
Kirstin also said that wherever you stay, whether just for the night, or for a whole week, put out, or put up your mementoes from home, your pictures of the people and places you know. Kirstin didn’t know it, but what she said gave me permission to feel at home wherever I lay my head. It wasn’t about homesickness, it was about belonging. Those keepsakes that connected me with the homeland reminded me that I belonged somewhere, that I belonged with a community of people in a particular part of God’s world. In the same way, I belonged wherever I was, and with whoever I was with, at that particular moment it time. I will never be divorced from where I’ve come from, but at the same time, I will never be disconnected from where I am going.
I’ve been back home for months now, and flatting with a friend of mine in a little house up beach road with a paddock next door. Occasionally the cows come in. When they do I spend some time with them, sitting on the fence and eating my toast. Wayne, the flatmate, is getting married at the end of the month, and he’s moving up north to be with his girl. On Monday the movers came, packed up his stuff (except for the alcohol and the aerosols) and took it away.
I’m staying on for the next couple of weeks.
I made myself scarce on Monday. When I returned home in the afternoon the house was empty and the cupboards were bare (a part from the aforementioned possessions, and my room, where I had stashed all my stuff).
Remembering the wisdom and experience of the homeless traveller, I set to work making this relatively empty house ‘home’ – even if it’s just for two and a half weeks. It’s not worth retrieving the couch and kitchen table I have stored at my folks place. So, I bought my nana’s old red rocking chair, a side table and a bookshelf out of my chock-a-block bedroom, and set them in a corner of the lounge as a little ‘living area’.
This exercise reminded me to the time when God told the Israelites, who were living in exile, to make a home for themselves, to plant gardens and settle down (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Although they would not be living in Israel in the time being, they would not cease to be Israelites. Although they belonged to the land of Israel, more importantly, they belonged to God, and therefore belonged to each other. They would always be at home together.
I am not living in exile, nor am I far from my homeland. The nature of my age and stage means that I am in a state of transition a lot of the time. For now, my living situations are only ever temporary – for a year, or maybe just a few months. I would like, more than almost anything, to build a home and settle down, to have some stability and security. But, at the same time, I have itchy feet, eager to get going. Perhaps it is the nomadic life for me (for now). And so, wherever I am, wherever I lay my head, I will make a home for myself. I will settle down. I will belong, because I belong, first and foremost, to the One who has called me here, and will call me on.