We are born with an instinctive longing for the place we feel most at home. For some, that place is a room with a nice reclining chair and a remote. For others, a mansion might fit the bill.
For many of us, it is a search for what we knew and loved when we were young and more at home in the small yet thriving world we called home. It was a warm and secure place. But it was fleeting. A place recalled through old photographs and home movies. A place broken up, with some remaining pieces stored away in boxes in the attic.
Most of us never seem to find that place again. The past cannot be brought any nearer with a remote or a big house. Nostalgia is as captivating as it is ever elusive.
Yet there are some people who learn to find a place that seems to settle once and for all the need for a home. It fits them, meets their needs, reveals to them the depths of their own hearts as well as the hearts of others. The revelations take place in recovery groups.
Men and women who have hit bottom realize that the bottom can and does open out to a new place, a place filled with people whose stories are as varied as the individuals who share them. But the variations share some common themes — over-indulgence, addictive behavior, ruined relationships, relapses, despair — traits we usually associate with sinful behavior, traits those among us who are purists tend to shun or deny.
In short, they are not us. Or maybe they are.
Jesus raised many an eyebrow when he dined with sinners. Sinners seemed very attracted to Him. Perhaps they sensed He really loved them.
They found a home with Him, in him. Jesus shifted the place we normally think of as home from rooms with remotes and mega mansions to gatherings of people who have hit bottom with a hard landing, hard enough to break through the bottom of the barrel of life to a free-fall into the arms and hearts of people waiting to accept them, love them, welcome them to a place called home.
It is a place that is not far from any one of us. We will know we have arrived when we realize that we have many things to share with each other, and in the telling of those things, discover that shame, sin, and the longing for some kind of redemption are talismans of a new and graced way of life.
It can be, and usually is, a painful way to seek and eventually settle into a new home. But perhaps that is why old places that once sheltered a human life in a cherished home setting must eventually give way to dwellings that offer potentials for mature and giving adults.
The walls of the past recede and eventually fade, and we find ourselves in a new and sometimes harsh place. It is hard, perhaps, to keep our balance, keep our feet on the ground. So we stumble. We fall. And we discover outreached hands that we are invited to grasp.
We rise, and join others who have found that home really is where the heart is. A mature heart knows that place as it comes to live and be in the lives of others.
God made us for each other. We are called by our humanity to reach out and make that home as real as our grasp, as real as taking a hand when it comes our way, a hand that lifts us to home.
Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.