I am delighted when I get to make a trip back home to Arkansas for a happy reason. I miss the fresh air, the mountains, the pine trees, the rivers, the lake and most of all the many people there that I love. The dirt roads and little country stores in the middle of nowhere. The supremely curvy roads where there is seldom an opportunity to pass the creeping truck you inevitably seem to get behind when you’re in a hurry. The slower pace that beckons you to slow down with it. When I go back home I always feel welcomed and peaceful. It makes me feel like I can breathe and relax. I can be myself in those woods or discover who I am again if I get confused and lost. There’s just something about the place where I grew up. It’s comforting and intoxicating. It is my happy sanctuary on this earth.
It hasn’t always been that way. For most of my younger years it was the place I desperately wanted to leave. It was the backwards, boring, and lackluster area that seemed to be frozen in time well behind everywhere else. Most of all, it was the place I made some of the biggest mistakes of my life. There, I hurt everyone I loved and that loved me. It was in that place that I slapped away every hand stretched towards me to guide my steps and lead me from danger. It was there, where before it had been so easy to find myself, that I got lost. Then I tucked tail and ran. I ran far and fast, trying to elude the heartache and darkness I had brought upon myself.
But that wasn’t the end of the story and home wasn’t done with me yet.
In a few years I returned. I had created a new life for myself and had a family of my own. Deep inside though, there was still an ache. A shadowed place I hid deep and refused to confront. Something had begun stirring in me though. A flicker of light was trying to dispel the darkness and hurt. And it started to burn brighter when I came home. Not just to that little town in Arkansas and my earthly family, but to the place where my Christian journey began as well. Suddenly home wasn’t just my family and the houses we lived in, the schools I went to or the friends I cherished. Home was deeper. Home was the things I had been taught by parents who shared the Word with us daily. Home was the place I was saved and baptized. Home was Him. The One I had been running from. Suddenly I realized home had come to me. And when it knocked on the door of my heart this time, I finally welcomed it in.
The process of healing and forgiveness was difficult. It took a long time before I accepted His forgiveness and was able to ask forgiveness of others. Even after it was given, there were wounds to heal. But through love and grace, heal we did.
So you see, as much as I love the physical place where I grew up and as much as I enjoy my too seldom visits there, I know now that home is always with me. It is a part of who I am. It is love, laughter, mistakes, tears, forgiveness, grace, healing, and second chances. It’s family and friends. It’s blue lakes and mountains and pine trees. You can run away, you can think you’re leaving it far behind, but home will always find you. It will beckon you back with warm, open arms. And no matter what, you can always, always go home.