How often do you long for home? This could be the house of your childhood, or, really, any place where you are accepted and loved. A place where others understand you and where you fit in. Whatever this place looks like, whether it exists in a physical location or in your mind’s eye, each of us has a longing for home.
Ever since my mother passed away, I’ve had to redefine this longing. I may be living in the house she made into a home, but it doesn’t have the same feel. Thus, I’ve been working to create a welcoming place to which I can invite people and where I can experience and share a grounded love. But something is always missing in this endeavor: specifically the arms of my mother. Yet, there remains in me a hope that a home, a solid home, still exists.
This hope has been revived through a new spiritual practice a friend introduced me to – a prayer wheel. Recently, a version of this forgotten prayer tool from the Middle Ages was discovered in a 10th century gospel book from Liesborn, Germany. On the first blank page, someone drew a circle and then filled it with elements to guide praying. Included are petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the gifts of the Spirit from Isaiah 11, moments in the life of Christ, and the beatitudes from Matthew 5, all arranged in seven spokes with God at the center. (Learn more at http://www.religionnews.com/2015/04/30/no-dice-required-a-medieval-prayer-w
Around this circle the words “The order of the diagram written here teaches the return home” frame the diagram and the prayer. Each day that I’ve prayed using this tool, I’m drawn to the words of home. I place my finger on the cross at the top of the wheel and trace the outer words. By the time I’ve returned to the cross I realize a renewed peace as I begin praying the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Though I may not experience home as I have in the past, I’m recognizing that a different and deeper reality of home is present. I’m moving towards a deeper peace because I’m learning that home is not something I or someone else creates, but is being with God.
As David cries out in Psalm 27
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
Even if I use this tool for less than a minute a day, it is redirecting my thinking. There is something about physically tracing a path as I speak the words. It’s similar to taking a pilgrimage, walking a labyrinth, or making the sign of the cross. As I connect to something tangible, such practices take me out of the sometimes ethereal, otherworldly practices of seeking to dwell in the Lord’s house. But, isn’t this what abiding in Christ should be, since he is fully human, as well as fully God? It makes sense that to abide with him, a person needs to connect with that human, material part – not merely the spiritual. These material practices point the reality of God’s incarnation. They also affirm that the longing for home has a destination.
St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about this longed-for dwelling as well:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:1-3)
While I continue to re-create a place of home and as I hear the call of home from many other sources, this diagram on a single 8×10 sheet of paper reminds me of the true home. A home in which I don’t need to worry about paying the taxes, repairing cracks in the wall, or finding the right sofa. Even as I fondly remember the home my mother created and seek to create my own version, I realize these can only be glimpses of an eternal home at the heart of God.
It’s a blessing to find home with God, where ever I may find myself – and to be thankful for the experiences that have and continue to point to it.