Monday Over Coffee: "Getting Home"

Published December 19, 2022 by Greg Funderburk

To be happy at home is ... the end to which every enterprise and labor tends....
— Dr. Samuel Johnson

Not long ago, circumstances conspired such that I found myself sleeping all night on a metal bench in an airport, forsaken by all but the graveyard shift at the usually bustling terminal and a handful of other weary travelers. When a TSA employee roused me from my fitful slumber at 5:00 AM and told me to move along, I obediently arose, my contacts sticking to my eyes, the strap of my cumbersome carry-on bag cutting into my shoulder blade, and stumbled toward the glowing blue light of the arrival/departure board. My flight remained delayed. I still had no idea when I might get home.

Songwriters know it. "Home" is a lyrical word which evokes deep feelings. There are scores of songs invoking the idea, all penned to pluck the listener's heart strings, reminding them of where they were before and want to be again. "Take Me Home Country Roads," "California Dreamin'," "Homeward Bound," "Can't Find My Way Home," "Sweet Home Alabama"—they are all songs that bring to mind that pining feeling, that yearning to get back home again.

Moviemakers know it too. The Wizard of Oz, The Trip to Bountiful, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Toy Story, The Martian are all films that follow compelling characters on compelling journeys trying to connect, trying to get home against the odds. We identify with their plight because we're all well acquainted with the pain of dislocation and the desire to return to the place where our heart belongs.

And of course creative writers and storytellers know the mesmerizing, magnetic power of home, as well. The primal urge to get home is the animating force behind the most famous tale in the history of our species—Homer's Odyssey—most likely written down in the 7th century B.C., after being passed down through word of mouth for who knows how long before that. How revealing is it that the prototype adventure story of our species—the one that tells us so much about our nature, our aspirations, and our failings—takes as its main concern a hero's struggle to return home? Odysseus may be seeking glory. He may be pursuing the favor of the gods along the way, but more than anything else, the guy just wants to get back to his wife, his son, and his dog.

Eighteenth-century English poet, playwright, and dictionary maker, Dr. Samuel Johnson asserted, "To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labor tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution." I think he may be on to something. While granted this is a generalization, if you run to ground why it is that we human beings think ahead, plan, and strategize about the future, why we toil and labor, and why we're so rambunctiously inclined toward conflict and combat, you'll find at bottom we are all just trying to secure, maintain, and enjoy a safe place where we can be ourselves, be with family, live, grow, flourish, raise our children, then launch them out into the world so they can do the same.

It's interesting also that Jesus so swiftly reaches for the metaphor of "home" when He's describing eternity and the idea of heaven to His disciples. There's something especially comforting about the words He chooses: "Let not your heart be troubled," He said. "In my Father's house are many mansions."

In this season, as you find yourself at home or with those you associate with home, look around and for a brief moment, realize that you're experiencing the feeling that songwriters, filmmakers, and generations of storytellers so often try to evoke and the one that those away from home yearn to feel. Grasp the notion that you have, in this moment, the very thing they're describing as most desirable. The thing folks marooned in airports crave. In this moment, it's yours. Extract its strength and its blessing. Fully understand that this moment—this very one—is the one you've so industriously pursued with both great consideration and strain. This is it. Truly get it. It's a hint of eternity, in a small dose, offered to you to experience right now.

If, alternatively, you're far from the place you call home either due to distance or because you've found yourself in a circumstance which is far from the ideal of home you've imagined for yourself, know that this profound exchange Jesus had with his followers is evidence that God knows exactly what you're yearning for and has given reliable assurance that the story ends with exactly what you've been missing—the joy of truly getting home.

God — Help me get home. Amen.

— Greg Funderburk