Peace: The fear of home

by | Dec 5, 2021

Are you a Flintstone? I love this play on words, even though I realize it doesn’t apply to me. I have no claim to being a Flintstone unless I pass some time test after living here for over ten years. Some say that Flintstones are persons who were born in Flint.

I decided to do a little research, so I went to a popular source, Wikipedia. And I discovered, according to this source, that “Flintstones” referred initially to Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, and Charlie Bell. These three basketball players from Flint helped lead the Michigan State Spartans to three consecutive Final Fours and a national championship.

Wikipedia also noted that the use of Flintstones now refers to Flint natives. This implies birthrights rather than occupational rights, which leaves me an outsider. But is Flint still “home” for me?

When I first arrived in Flint, I noticed something unfamiliar for me. When I asked the persons living in our neighborhood where they call home, their response most often began with the phrase “I stay at” followed by a location. Is home the place where we stay?

In an article that introduced this month’s series, I wrote that “Home is whatever place you feel hope, peace, joy, and love. It is a place where hope never fades entirely out.” For most of us, we find home wherever we are at the time that we’re searching for home. In this case, we don’t need a plane ticket or a gas card to go home. But this also suggests that when we lose hope, or when our joy fades, love evades us, or peace seems impossible, we leave home in some way.

Admittedly, we each experience “home” in different ways. If our topic is “going” home, we must be talking mainly about a place somewhere other than where we are currently. And if this place we call home offers us peace, why would we experience anxiety while contemplating our upcoming journey?

It’s complicated.

I still remember returning “home” several months after I left to attend college. As the summer after high school came to an end, I loaded up my parent’s car with my belongings for the drive to Bowling Green. I was moving away from home for the first time. “Home” as the place where my parents lived would never be the same.

I didn’t get haircuts when I lived on campus while attending college. I’m sure that my new city of residence had barbers, but I seldom had extra money that wasn’t already spoken for. And I never had long hair before, so the first time I went home for Christmas, I was greeted with “You need a haircut.” Admittedly, this is not a harsh judgment for a person who doesn’t spend time in front of mirrors, but this would be sufficient reason to dread going home for some.

As a parent, I know how quickly our standards drop out of focus for our children. And how quickly seemingly reasonable requests can escalate into arguments. This is hardly a peaceful scenario.

For others, the home of parents was never a place of peace. Rather the memories of abuse and violence overshadow any sense of longing. In this case, home is clearly somewhere else.

Can we agree that home is a place that gives us a sense of belonging ? A place, physical or otherwise, where we fit in? Simple enough on the surface, but belonging is a very personal notion. When I say that “I feel like I belong here,” our understanding of the “I” is crucial. Let me explain.

Research Psychologist Dr. Brené Brown, in her book Braving the Wilderness, offered a definition of belonging that really hits “home” for me (pun intended). But first, Dr. Brown quoted poet Maya Angelou in an interview with Bill Moyers. “You are only free when you realize you belong no place.” Dr. Brown shared that this quote made her angry every time she thought about it. 2

I noticed that my stomach did a few flips the first time I read Maya’s words. This doesn’t sound like a place I want to call home. Is this what Dorothy meant in the Wizard of Oz when she said, “There’s no place like home?” That we don’t belong any place in particular?

Frankly, I get it. As I read Dr. Brown’s introduction to her book, I realized one thing we have in common is a sense of not belonging due to multiple moves while growing up. Once we’ve lived in different neighborhoods and schools, you feel like you don’t belong anywhere. In which case, our desire to belong can feel like everything.

I will send my messenger to prepare the way for me. Then the Lord you are looking for will suddenly come to his Temple.
Malachi 3:1

I’ve been slow to learn that fitting in is not the same thing as belonging. I’ve never been very good at fitting in either. It’s hard to find peace trying to pretend that the person others see when they look at you is real. Because when that person doesn’t exist, there is a sense of being invisible that overshadows any sense of belonging.

You have to be seen to belong, and people can’t see you if you’re invisible. But to visibly emerge is frightening. I discovered that I’m actually afraid to go home because I’m fearful that If I am myself, I don’t belong there.

So Going home is what Christmas is really about, Charlie Brown, so Linus can keep his thoughts to himself. But is this really what Christmas is all about — going home?

The prophecies associated with God’s decision to live among us in human form are significant for Christians. And as Christmas approaches, we hold onto these promises to get us through the anxieties of everyday life.

One relatively obscure prophet named Malachi offered this message from God that continues to resonate when we think about Christmas. Malachi said that a messenger will prepare the way for God to appear in the flesh. What does it mean to prepare the way for God to come? And when God arrives, will God feel a sense of going home like belonging?

How can we prepare the way for God’s homecoming?

I read where people are decorating Christmas trees earlier than ever this year. After working all week, my sister’s neighbor turned on their light display the Friday after Thanksgiving. This is one way to prepare.

Peace: The fear of homeOur series for this year’s holiday season is Going home. During Thanksgiving, the news stories focused on people traveling, and with COVID cases rising to new levels, travel is likely to top the charts again during Christmas. Along with product shortages, higher gas prices, of course, COVID. So going home, if home is elsewhere, is risky business again this year.

Perhaps this Christmas, we can focus some of our energy that COVID insists we don’t utilize to focus on our sense of belonging. Not because we try to fit in, but because we reveal more of who we are as the person God created us to be.

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Pastor Tommy

1 Katelin Maylum, Tommy McDoniel, and Terrance Williams. “Home for Christmas.” Flint, Michigan. © Asbury Church, 2021.

2 Dr. Brené Brown. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. NY: Random House, 2017.

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