It all started with the maroon polyester pantsuit. Feeling ugly and uncomfortable, I remember sitting on the sidewalk refusing to go anywhere in that garish monster of an outfit, wishing I could scrape the itchy thing off like Job’s boils. And then the persistent diet of fried eggs in the morning. Is there anything worse than the viscous undercooked egg white slipping down the throat? It became clear to me that it was time for a parting of the ways. I filled the old stained samsonite suitcase with all of my belongings and somehow managed to haul it down the green shag carpeted stairs of the tiny apartment we lived in, out the door, and to the curb. My parents watched as I did this, somewhat amused, I am sure. “What are your plans?” they asked politely, “Where do you plan to go?” Of course, being small for my age and somewhat sickly, I was exhausted by the end of my short journey and that was the end of that. It was the first but not the last time I would attempt to send myself into exile.
What I really wanted was for them not to call my bluff, to act as if the thought of me missing was too terrible to contemplate. Five is not too young for a little emotional blackmail. I wanted a little autonomy, and I was testing whether I was wanted. I don’t know if it was the acquisition of a baby brother or other issues at the time, but in my heart, I lived apart from my family, even at that young age. The real moment of exile in the Garden of Eden is not when God ushers the shame-faced miscreants from paradise. The moment Adam and Eve believed that who they were was not enough and took a bite from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge that You are not Perfect was the exact moment they left and became refugees from themselves. They believed themselves to be outcast, and so they were.
The question I want to ask here is does your heart live in exile?
Some of you already know the answer to that. There is pain in response to that question. If you aren’t sure, take a moment to imagine greeting yourself from a long journey away. You have been gone quite awhile and suddenly, you are going to see yourself, come home to yourself. As you approach, how do you feel? Indifferent? Do you feel like turning away from who you are, who you have become? Or do you reach out in love to the God given gift that is you?
Jesus prayed for us that we would become one, like He and His Father were one. He knew that the extent to which we are whole and authentic with ourselves, the extent to which we are home to ourselves is the extent to which we can be home to others. He Himself, in joyful unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost, has gone to prepare for us a home, a home to which the only way is Himself. It is in this holy unity that we live and move and have our being. The more we separate from our own selves, the more we separate from God. We cannot give Him what we do not have.
Having our being is a curious phrase. I think for most of my life I avoided having my being. I did not want it. I could not welcome myself home. My self was an uncomfortable place, filled with pain and rejection. I had an uncomfortable couch once; it pushed anyone sitting on it off within fifteen minutes. I was like that couch, ill at ease and unwelcoming to my own self, my own precious self, hand fashioned by God to please Himself, me, and others. To love and be loved. And yet I wanted none of me.
To return to oneself, to be at home in one’s body, mind, and heart is a journey, of course. And for some, a long one. Let today be the start of that passage, that expedition into the acceptance of the beloved.
Say to yourself, “Come home to me. You are not alone.”
And as you extend a welcoming hand to the lost parts of your soul, feel the welcoming party behind you; the great cloud of witness, the saints, your family, and your God. They are all thrilled to see you.