I guess when I think of coming home, I think of things being as they should be or feeling right again. When I was in the Army, I was stationed at Ft Sill, Oklahoma for three years. I would return to Laramie, for the holidays and I was home. My friends were there, my family was there, the church I grew up in was there; things just felt familiar and comfortable, homey.
I could never put my finger on exactly when this changed, but after we moved to Colorado Springs, something changed, not really right away, but there was a definite shift. We still went home for the holidays, but fewer and fewer of my friends were there, my brothers and sisters had moved away, and my old church just was not what I had remembered (perhaps it was me who changed). Somehow, that place that was once home no longer held the same attraction anymore. Even my wife noticed this, one time she even made the comment that it just didn't "feel like going home anymore".
So when I think about going home, that is what I think about, that place, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual where things feel connected, comfortable, familiar, and welcoming. I think we can find these places all around us if we allow ourselves to experience life as God intended for us to experience it. We were made for community, and so when we have a real committed, intimate community surrounding us, we feel at home. When we have safe places to live our lives, unafraid of judgment of criticism, where we can be messed up and still be loved and accepted, we feel at home. Home is wherever we can live life as we were meant to live it, and coming home always feels right.
Growing up in church, I learned that there were certain expectations. People would say things like "God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you there". What they usually meant was "in time you will start to look act and dress like the other church people, or we will begin to treat you in ways that will coerce you into doing so. If you don't eventually come around we may ask you to leave, or you may leave on your own, either way, we will talk about how you were not really saved in the first place, and pray that the next time you will conform to our expectations better". Now of course, they would never admit to thinking this way, after all, Jesus wanted us to be separate from the world, and they are just concerned with your spiritual growth.
Having grown up in this world, I knew the expectations very well. Some were spoken, such as "men have short hair, and women have long hair, the bible says so", and "We dress up in suits and dresses for church because we want to give God our best". Some were unspoken, like the way all the leaders of the church dressed alike, and listened to the same music, and had similar haircuts and talked with the same words. Whether spoken or unspoken, it was clear what was expected of me in order to be a good Christian. While there were occasional rebellions against conforming, I pretty much kept to the shirt and tie and short hair look. It seemed like what was right, at least at the time, I was doing what was expected of me and I received at least a little comfort knowing that at least to some degree I was measuring up.
In much the same way as coming home from the Army, something gradually began to change and I began to be less and like things were as they should be. First I stopped wearing the suits, then the shirt and tie, then I stopped wearing button down shirts and slacks. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to look good, or found a new style; I just discovered something about God’s house. God’s house is where we should be most free to be who we were created to be, where we should feel the least pressure to conform, and should find complete acceptance as children of God. In short, God’s house should feel like home, it should be the most comfortable place in the world.
It was a slow transformation at first; I started to wear less formal clothes to church. Eventually, I was actually wearing my biker leather when I sang in the church choir, and slowly, I began to feel that coming home feeling again. I have discovered a new me, one that does not hide behind a suit and tie or a clean shave or nice haircut. I can wear my black leather and jeans to church; in fact, this is what I wear when I preach now. I can sit on the back of my Harley and make noise and maybe even ride a little faster than I should. I can sing along to the Sidewalk Prophets or Van Halen on the radio at the top of my lungs and I don't care who is watching. I even started growing my hair out, and it has been one year since my last haircut.
When I think about the whole process, it is not really a matter of leaving one home for another; it is just realizing that home is simply that place where we truly belong. I am where I belong now, and I am who I was meant to be. I am no longer ashamed to be the loud, burly, rough looking non-conformist that God created me to be, because I know now that He is OK with it. I am closer to him than I ever was sitting quietly in the pew with my shirt and tie, and to steal a line from my favorite movie, I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me a biker, and when I ride, I feel God's pleasure.
This post was part of the December Synchroblog - Coming Home. Please read these other authors posts on this months topic at the links below.