Where is home and how do I get there?

Whenever someone asks me, ‘where are you from?’ I don’t know what to say. The short answer would be that my mum is American, my dad British, I was born in Slough and my childhood was spent in Nepal at the foot of the Himalayas. Buffaloes were our next-door neighbours and 25,000-foot snow-capped mountains were our backdrops. I then lived in Chalfont St Peter, St Helens, Solihull, Wetheringsett, Kolkata and finally London. In London alone I’ve moved 7 times and am about to move again. So, where on Earth is home?

Finding home is something that many people in London, or indeed in any big city, struggle with enormously. Most city dwellers are city dwellers by necessity not desire and hope one day to escape to that perfect combination of countryside and community that they feel cities simply cannot offer. You may not have always lived where you do now, you may have come from another city or country or continent altogether. Perhaps you are currently living in a shared flat, student dorm or on a friend’s sofa. You may live with the sound of trains rattling past your condensation-dripping, single-paned windows. You may have mould growing on the walls and incredibly inconsiderate neighbours. Your family might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away. You might yearn to hear your home language spoken on the streets, the accent you’re used to on the radio or the music you grew up with playing in the shops. You may long to look up and see not ugly city towers but great expanses of sky and experience the sights and scents of home again. We long for home, wherever that is.

My definition of home has evolved over the years, growing in dimensions until it has become a multi-faceted thing. My first notion of home was that it was where I lived, plain and simple. And I guess it was, until we left that place and then it became more complicated. Perhaps home was now wherever my family lived, I thought, but I had this new ache for an old place called home that was no longer. Over time, I grew to believe that home was a collection of places and memories. Or maybe it was a time in the past. So what is it? Is home your childhood, or your culture? Is it your family or your significant other? Edward Sharpe’s song Home rings true for many of us when he sings ‘home is whenever I’m with you’. Yet even when we are with our loved ones we can feel an emptiness in the home-space which we expected them to fill [1]. In our increasingly globalised world, many of us feel homesick for a place we’ve never even been, and we ask: can home even be a house, a place, a tree-lined avenue leading to somewhere we feel safe, anymore?

I would say both yes and no. Yes, home can be a place. Yes, you can feel at home to a certain extent in a physical place, among a collection of friends or within a culture or sub-culture that you get and that gets you. However, even those of us who have all of that know that none of these things are permanent. People leave, houses get torn down, places change over time, we change. We can’t set our concept of home in gelatine and preserve it, just as it is, forever. So, how do we find a lasting home?

The life story of Abraham in the Bible gives us some idea. Abraham was a nomad living in a strange land. For most of his life he didn’t have a single square foot to call his own. His family lived in tents and were on the move constantly. He hungered for home. He had been told by God that one day a whole country would be his, but that seemed very far off. How did he keep going? How did he and his family get their sense of home when they couldn’t even put down foundations where they were? ‘Abraham did it by keeping his eye on an unseen city with real, eternal foundations—the City designed and built by God’ [2].

Abraham and his family were desperately looking forward to the more immediate home that God had promised them: the land, the people, the sunsets. But Abraham knew that wherever he was, he was at home if he was with God. He knew that home ultimately was a relationship with our Maker; that we are most at home when we are with the one who created us. Living with that in mind, Abraham could be at peace with his often-homeless lifestyle by walking closely with God on earth and looking forward to the immovable home he would have with him in heaven.

For all of us, God is terribly interested in our feeling at home. He knows that we need it. As Jo Swinney writes in her book Home; ‘God understands that people flourish when they are planted’ [3]. God longs to give you that rootedness, not just for now here on earth, but forever with him in heaven. He created you for that home and that home for you.

As a third-culture kid, I have found the concept of home an extremely slippery one. I am often tempted to look for home in the past, but Swinney’s book reminded me that

We can’t return to a home in the past… Much as we must fight the idea that we would be happier somewhere else, in another marriage, in a bigger house, we must fight the idea that we were once at home but we never will be again. [4]

Now I know that not only can I be at home again, in various times and places in this world, but I will be eternally at home in the next. With my eyes fixed on that home I can withstand mouldy walls, dismal views and friendships that aren’t quite what I’m looking for, if I have to. I so look forward to arriving at home forever. On that day I will say, like the characters found at the end of CS Lewis’ last Narnia chronicle:

I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. [5]

If you would like to take steps towards finding your true home you could start by visiting a warm, loving church and start getting to know God, the one who created a home for you, and the rest of your future everlasting friends. Then, like Ferdinand the Bull, you will finally be able say: ‘Home; no more running. I’m good knowing that I belong’ [6].

[1] Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Home (2009) Vagrant, Rough Trade
[2] Hebrews 11:10 The Message
[3] Jo Swinney, Home (2017) Hodder & Stoughton, London, 221
[4] Jo Swinney, Home (2017) Hodder & Stoughton, London, 224-5
[5] CS Lewis, The Last Battle (1956) Collier, 168–71
[6] Nick Jonas, Home (2017) Ferdinand, La-La Land Records

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Jocelyn Hutton

Jocelyn Hutton
Jocelyn is a British-American lawyer and mum, who grew up in Nepal and is now a Londoner by choice.

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