“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.… something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
I read that aloud to my almost teenaged granddaughter Tabatha the other day. She’d come for a sleepover and we had a poetry feast. We sat on the fold-out bed in my yellow office, surrounded by bookshelves crammed to the hilt, scattered with displaced items waiting in temporary parking spots for a home of their own.
A messy place just now, but part of the home I love.
Poems flowed back and forth between us, like a swing on a sunny day. First she chose, then I; poems from her slim, well-used volume, You Come Too, by Robert Frost. (“The library was getting rid of it, imagine that, Nana. I hope they replaced it with a newer copy. Every library should have this.”)
Frost embedded the quote I began with in his poem titled, “The Death of the Hired Man.” As I do all Frost’s poetry, I adore the poem for its truth and insight. The human heart, I think (at least this writer’s heart) feels most at home in places where “deserving” is no prerequisite.
When Tabatha was seven, she watched her infant sister snuggling into her mother, making soft purring sounds. “Mama,” Tabatha said suddenly. “We all say there’s no place like home. But I think Lois is saying, ‘There’s no place like Mama. No place like Mama.’”
Even for a child, no spot feels as warm or secure as the place where we’re surrounded by the people we love most; who love us most, in spite of knowing us best. The place we don’t have to deserve.
We have home hunger, we humans. But the media daily reminds us that our physical homes (even our church homes, as the recent burning of Notre Dame Cathedral graphically demonstrated) aren’t permanent. Disaster, fire, misfortune or illness can separate us from them without even an alarm bell.
The Preacher and I have experienced that. And as much as we enjoy our current home, that memory, that hollow ache of having none has taught us to look elsewhere for our permanent home: not to a house or cathedral, but to a shelter found only in God himself. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 91, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
“Home is a place that, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” Frost wrote. Deserving isn’t part of the equation, because only one person could possible deserve that God-shelter — Jesus Christ. But when we love and follow him, his name covers us when we run home. He is the key to internal joy here on earth, eternal life in heaven, and supernal joy forever.
Jesus. The faith home I don’t need to deserve — because he does.