A Displaced Generation
We live in a world obsessed with movement. At any given time, a quarter of all UK citizens are looking to move house within a year. For us the entire planet is accessible in just a few clicks and we are often so distracted with what is far away, that our immediate surroundings might as well be a foreign territory.
We are a displaced generation. Many people are born in one place and grow up in another. We visit family on the other side of the country and commute even greater distances for work and education. Travel has become a right of passage as young people yearn to 'fly the nest' and get away from a home which seems boring in comparison.
The dictionary defines home as 'the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household'.
Based on this, home is a location. A place. But has this definition been destroyed by the modernisation and perpetual movement of society?
When I was born, home was a rural town in Kenya. At six years old I moved to Nottingham and at seven to South Wales. These three locations had the benefit of a constant - my family. They all felt like home but then while I was taking my gap year in Somerset, I would often flippantly refer to Yeovil as ‘home’ and the year after that, home became my university halls of residence in Essex. When I came back to my parent’s house during the holidays, I felt almost like a guest, it was as if I was in some temporary transitional period where I didn’t really know where I belonged.
To consider home as a singular location nowadays seems bizarre, especially as society has become so multicultural. Perhaps home can encompass different locations? For example my best friend is originally from Nigeria but grew up in London and now lives in Brighton. Can all three places be her home simultaneously? If so, what place does 'permanence' have in the dictionary definition?
Churches also often like to identify themselves as a home. But isn't our understanding of church a congregation, not a building? There is our church family – but also the presence of our holy ‘family’ – The Father, The Son and Holy Spirit.
In fact, without fail, the places I have felt most at home over the years have been in my Father’s House – at churches, Christian camps and conferences. Or even just relaxing with Christian friends or listening to worship music. I would therefore like to suggest that home has nothing to do with an earthly place and is actually defined by its inhabitants – the family who make up our faith, our God and His people. It follows then that home can be anywhere – in my parent’s house, saying grace before a meal; in my car, listening to worship music as I drive to work or even in the midst of that final, panicked prayer before a terrifying job interview in a strange and unwelcoming office.
Home is not a place, it is a Person. It is not a destination, it is an emotion. It defies the discomfort of displacement and unfamiliarity, because we are told that even ‘in the shadow of the valley of death’, He is with us, and therefore we are home.
Perhaps, if we are to define home as a location, it is the 'house with many mansions'. A place common, yet personal, to all of us. Where we can finally be with each other in an abode which defies borders, boundaries and distance.