Being at Home

Contributed by Sundhari Rangiah

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him: And in his word is my hope. (Psalm 130:5)

Mafa100-mediumOne of the greatest stories ever told never actually happened. It was fiction. But we know that fiction may speak truths in the clearest and most convincing­—and convicting—manner possible. The story is the parable that Jesus told of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). There are many important truths in this parable, but let us meditate on one—that of being at home.

The prodigal son leaves home to go to the big wide world beyond. He does not appreciate that all he is looking for he already has. “We may be Home with the Father, and yet not appreciate that we are really at Home,” observes Henri Nouwen[1], so we choose to leave the presence of the Father, to seek fulfillment and meaning in life elsewhere. As we know, when the prodigal son has spent all his inheritance he thinks of home and says, “I will arise and go home to my Father.” The father, in fact, is waiting longingly and expectantly for the son’s return, and sees his son when he is still a long way off. Soon the prodigal son is restored to the embrace of the father. He is back home: Home—the place of unconditional love, of unconditional forgiveness.

The story of the prodigal son is an amazing image of how God patiently waits to be in deep communion with us. But God allows us our waywardness, our searching in all the places that take us away from being at home in God’s very presence. Our home is where God is, and all our searching and striving is to return to God. “Thou hast made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee,” (St Augustine). Archbishop Tutu reminds us simply, “We are created by God, like God, for God.”[2]

This is what the Transfiguration means in your life and mine today. The love of God gives us a vision of hope. It transforms and transfigures us as individuals, as the Church, as churches, as nations, and as the world (Tutu). The Story of the prodigal son is not only for wayward sons and daughters, or cynical and self-righteous elder brothers and sisters. It is for us who are leaders in the church, people who are called to serve. Even as well-meaning people of action, how can we turn from all our striving, our activity, our restlessness, and become still? “Be still and know that I am God,” (Ps 46:10); still—in the presence of God; still—in the shelter and shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91).

Being at home is to return to a new childhood (Nouwen)[3], where God’s love is boundless and compassionate and all-protecting. Being at home is to understand again and again what it means to remain in the bosom of God. It is to know that we are home already, and that all our longing and striving for more takes us away from our real home, which is in the security and intimacy of God’s presence. Henri Nouwen says:

Jesus’s whole mission in coming to live among us was to call us home to the truth of our lives. He lives and teaches belonging in the womb of Unchanging Love, in the intimacy of Companioning Presence, in the house of the giver of Life and Breath, in the name of the Compassionate Creator. God’s name is our home, our dwelling place… from this home with the Guiding Spirit we walk out into the world without ever leaving this source of belonging.

(Nouwen, 2009)

“I have calmed and quieted my soul;

Like a weaned child upon its mother’s breast;

Like a child on its other’s breast

is my Soul within me.”

[1] Nouven, Henri J M. 2009. Home Tonight – Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

[2] Tutu, Desmond M. 2004. God Has a Dream – A Vision of Hope for our Time. Random House: London.

[3] Nouwen, Henri. 1992. The Return of the Prodigal Son – A Story of Homecoming. Darton, Longman and Todd: London.

 

Sundhari RangiahSundhari Rangia serves as president of the Women’s Department, Baptist Association of South Africa. She and several women traveled from South Africa to attend the 2012 National Women’s Conference sponsored by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. For more information about the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, of which AB Women’s Ministries and the Women’s Department of the Baptist Association of South Africa are both a part, visit www.bwawd.org.

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