Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pilgrims, Strangers, and Wanderers

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than any magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. -Charles Dickens

When I was younger, before the days of CDs and MP3s, my brother and I listened to dramatized stories on old records or cassette tapes, stories we would play and replay until we knew them by heart and could repeat the lines along with the characters. Fortunately, as we exhausted listening material, they continued to make more, and at some point we acquired the audio version of the abridged Pilgrim’s Progress, part two (we read the book version for part one). The allegory was so lengthy we eventually just replayed our favorite parts, usually the tapes from about the middle of the story; the most exciting parts, we felt, were the parts when the pilgrims were fighting giants, though other parts of their travels and travails merited occasional listening.

 Oddly, it is one of those “other parts” that is one of my favorites now. In the series, on the last cassette, Jim Pappas adapts Bunyan’s ending by quoting Ellen White in words that have always been etched onto a little plaque on a shelf somewhere in my mind. After the narrator paints a word picture of the peaceful land the travel-weary band finally arrives at near the legendary river, he proceeds in his scholarly voice to intone: “On those peaceful plains, beside those living streams, God’s people, so long pilgrims and wanderers, shall find a home.”

Home. By my estimate and memory, the number of residences and moves I’ve experienced totals up to somewhere around 23—the same number as years I’ve been alive. I don’t even know what to call home anymore, so anywhere I stay at for any length of time starts to get referenced as “home.”

What does home mean? It’s one of the first things we ask complete strangers when we meet: “So where are you from?” or “Where’s home for you?” Home. We all know it’s important. It’s part of our identity, the place we claim as ours.

Despite its importance, “home” is difficult to define. I not always sure if it’s quite the place or the people there or maybe it’s a combination of the two, but I feel like it must be related to happiness, security, and stability—anything less just wouldn’t be “home.” And so we long for it, whatever it is, and everything it embodies.

“So where are you from?” asked a gentleman I met at a hostel while backpacking through Europe with my husband, more or less homeless. At a loss, I explained with a smile that I don’t really know—mid-west U.S.A. is the closest I can get. “It’s not where you’re from that matters…It’s where you’re going,” he penned on my crumpled manuscript of signatures I collected as a souvenir of my travels.

Maybe it wasn’t exactly an epiphany, but I found a moment of clarity in his words. It’s okay if I don’t know precisely what to call home, if I’m not sure where to say I’m from, because I do know the part that matters—it’s where I’m going. I'm a pilgrim, not a homeless drifter. I have a home. It’s the place I heard described eloquently by the narrator in his scholarly voice while I lay on the floor of half a dozen different houses, listening to the cassette player, while my brother and were growing up. “On those peaceful plains, beside those living streams, God’s people, so long pilgrims and wanderers, shall find a home.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So glad you have kept straight the priorities of life. This world is not our final home; we're here only a short time. We are only passing through. Thank you for continuing to share your gifted writing. I love you, sweet daughter.