Each week at the Congregation of the Good Shepherd one of the pastors writes a reflection and sends it to the congregation. This week I wrote about home (and having written it in a mighty hurry, this is a slightly edited version!).
When I left New Zealand someone very dear to me gave me an envelope full of blessings. One of the things in the envelope was a purple star ornament. She told me that you can always navigate your way home by the stars.
I didn’t hang up that pretty purple star in the first two years I lived in Beijing. Last week, however, I pinned it to the corkboard above my desk. I have been thinking about home.
In the first two years in China, I went home three times. Once, unexpectedly, for four months. Home was New Zealand and more specifically the place where my friends made a room ready to receive me, where I had a spare coat in the cupboard and a spare pair of shoes.
When sickness stranded me in New Zealand (that unexpected four month stay), I began to long for home. Home where all my coats and shoes were in the cupboard. Home where a faith community considered me a member (and a pastor!). Home where my daily life and work was. Beijing.
It’s tricky, this idea of home. It’s shaped by personal geographies of memory and emotion as well as by terrain and culture.
The Christian tradition contains plenty to complicate easy ideas of home. It busts open the things we attach ourselves to, the identities we divide ourselves off by. There is restlessness and homelessness and being built into a home for God. We are pilgrims, travellers, citizens with the saints, dearly loved children…
The summer is a time of enormous transition in the congregation. Some of you are new to Beijing and beginning to make a home here. May you find enough to give you a sense of home here: enough steadiness, enough touchstones, enough flexibility and creativity to improvise, enough friendships.
Some of you have recently left Beijing and are making new homes in new places. May you know peace in your transition.
Some of you are suspended in the land of betwixt and between. You are here, but already knowing where you are going next; you are beginning to imagine this new life and prepare for it. Some of you are there: but not yet the there that will be your next home.
And some of us are here, and here is the place that feels most like home, for now at least.
Wherever we are, and wherever home is, may you feel at home with yourself! And may you remember that God is always welcoming us home: home to forgiveness, home to mercy, home to a place where we are completely known and extravagantly loved.