I’ve always had a complicated idea of what I consider to be my “home,” and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It’s a very difficult word to define. Home is often used to refer to the place where one lives. When I leave somewhere to go back to my apartment, I tell people I’m going home. But living in a place doesn’t necessarily make it my home, and it’s not the only way the word can be used. Home can also refer to the place where one grew up. Next week on Spring Break, I will be going home to Greenwood, AR. That is where I spent the majority of my childhood, and that is where my family currently lives. In a sense, Greenwood still is and probably always will be my home. These are two of the main places I refer to using the word “home.”
But for many, neither of these definitions adequately describes what they consider to be “home.” For some, home may be a place that one visited in the past and yearns to return to, where one feels most alive. Or it may be centered more around a person than on a geographical location. And for Christians, the idea of “home” is further complicated by the fact that we believe our true home is a place we haven’t even been to yet: heaven. With all these different ideas of home, how does one make sense of it? What does the word “home” really mean, and how can I know if I’ve truly found it?
First of all, I think it’s important to understand that home doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical place. It can be, and it probably usually is, but I think the true definition of home isn’t limited to space. Home is more about a deep feeling of fulfillment, belonging, and comfortability that is unique to a certain context. Whether that context is a literal place or maybe something a little less tangible, it can still be considered home.
I also think a working definition of home would be incomplete if it did not recognize that a person can (and possibly should) have more than one home. Just because someone feels deeply connected to a certain place or context, that does not exclude the possibility of being deeply connected to another place or context. This has some accompanying complications. It can be unhealthy to try to live in two places (or try to live in one place when your heart is in another), but I do not think that having more than one home is unhealthy in and of itself. I think it shows that a person is capable of growing roots while also spreading their wings, and I think that is something worthy of respect.
There are different kinds of homes. There’s your functional home, the place you live. Hopefully everyone has some sort of space that is his or her own, even if it’s just one corner of a bedroom that you share. I know that I don’t function well when I don’t have some space that I can call my own. But there are also deeper types of home. There are significant places from your past. I know many people detest their hometowns and would never call them their “homes,” but I love where I grew up, and I still call it home to this day. There are relational homes. Maybe you have a family member or a close friend who lives somewhere that you’ve never lived, but you still feel a homely feeling toward that place simply because of the person that’s there. That’s a type of home. And there are others, as well.
And just because you consider a place home now, that doesn’t mean you always will. As you grow and change, what you consider home will grow and change, too. When I lived in Conway, AR, for undergrad, I considered that place a sort of home because I was living there. But now that I’ve moved away along with all of my close friends who were there with me, I don’t feel at home there anymore. I feel a fondness for it, sure. But it’s not home. And that’s OK.
But it is very important that you have a home. You need a place where you feel comfortable, complete, and fulfilled. Without some kind of home (again, not necessarily a physical place per se), a person has no roots. There’s nothing connecting him or her to the world, and he or she can quickly become just a floater. Even if the only definition of home you have is one person you truly care about and feel connected with, you have a home, and everyone needs that.
Ultimately, home is the place where you feel the most alive. The place where you can truly be yourself. Maybe home is where you live. Maybe it’s where you grew up. Maybe it’s somewhere you’d like to be. Or maybe it’s someone you can totally be yourself around. For me, my home is a combination of many of these things. And I’m happy with that definition. May you each find the place or places that make you feel the most alive and plant your roots deep wherever it is you call home.