A phone call this morning has set me thinking about home. It was from my mother, to say that they have sold their house and are preparing to move into a bungalow. I knew this was on the cards - they've been talking about it for a few weeks now - but when the news came it took me aback, and took me back.
We moved as a family into that house in March 1967: I was almost 6 years old. I don't remember much about the previous house, a 2 bedroom terraced property, other than where it was and that it was nearer to church. The 'new' house had three bedrooms, which was important as there were now 5 of us in the family: mum, dad & 3 boys. As I was the eldest, I was allowed a room of my own, except when we had guests, when I slept on a camp-bed with my brothers.
I don't think it's too sentimental a thing to say that that house helped to make me the person I am today, principally because it was home. Even though I only lived there for about 18 years, it has always been home to me: a place I could return to at any time and feel as if I belonged, that felt familiar and comfortable. Since I left there I've had 11 addresses, and have never lived anywhere more than 6 years, but that house has been a rock, a place of permanence, amid the changes that life has brought. It was there that I received love and nurture, forgiveness and understanding.
The same could be said about the church in which I grew up. It was the place in which I was baptised, in which I was converted to Christ - probably more than once, and in which I received the encouragement of God's saints over many years. But, sadly, a few years ago, the building closed and the people became part of other fellowships. We drove past the place just the other week: the building has not yet been sold, and it saddened me to see the gardens that had once been so lovingly tended looking so overgrown - saddened me, because that used to be home.
I've written earlier in this Blog about place. But home is a special place: home is where we feel we belong; home is where we are accepted; home is where we are nurtured; home is familiar yet challenging; home is where we can always be secure and loved and welcomed. And yes, I know that there are times when home can be frightening and oppressive and abusive, which is anathema to me, but that is not part of my experience. Home is more than the address you live at, more than the church building you attend, yet they symbolise for me so much of what a true home is.
Home is where the key fits. That rite of passage when one is given 'the key to the door', a tiny piece of metal that allows one access to the home at any time, is symbolic of belonging as well as of maturity. I was trying to remember when I was given my key: I'm certain it was well before my 18th birthday, let alone my 21st. And soon it will need to be handed back (hopefully to be replaced with a new one for a new place, a new home).
I can't help but think of words of Jesus at this point: "There are many rooms in my Father's home." [John 14:2 NLT] It is in God that we are truly 'home' - accepted, loved, challenged, where we belong, where the key fits. Whatever changes in life, we can be sure of this.