Written by: Melissa Maguire
I am homeless.
I have a bed, a bathroom, a roof over my head and food every day, but I am without a home. College affords the rare opportunity to live in so many different places that I live in none of them. For a maximum of three consecutive weeks at a time, I return to my childhood home, and a sense of nostalgia sets in.
The place I once called home feels different now. The place that should be home lacks my dad’s terrible jokes and contagious laughter since he passed. The couch shifts position each time I am here, the dishes emigrate to a different cabinet and my bedroom with the soft lilac walls I chose at 17 is often occupied by another family member. My dresser is my suitcase, and my closet is full of clothes I no longer wear. I sleep on a mattress on the floor in the house that was once my sanctuary.
“I don’t want you to feel like a guest. This is your home,” my mom tells me. But I do. I feel like a guest who visits only on the holidays.
Well, then the place I live the rest of the time must be home! A roughly 11-by-12-foot postage stamp: my dorm room. Amenities include a sink that sprays your face if you turn it on too fast, the world’s loudest shower and cozy bunk beds for two. I share a tiny box refrigerator with my roommate and eat meals made by someone else for the low price of 52 cents an ounce. This hardly feels like a home. It’s an in-between.
We make do because, after all, we aren’t staying here long. Every August we move in and in May move out. Command strips and push pins hold up any decorations we managed to accumulate.
I am not complaining. Dorm life is fun, and living near all of your friends holds much value. But it never quite feels like I live here. The other three months of the year, summer break, I spend in yet another not-home: summer camp. The warm air on my face, Chaco sunburn on my feet and French braids in my hair, I run between the camper cabin and my “personal cabin,” which stores all my clothes. I don’t live here either; I am working a rewarding job, but I sleep on yet more bunk beds. I have no home.
Home is a place where you feel safe and at peace, the place where you can be your real self because you belong there. It is your own; everything is where you left it and how you like it. You don’t have to leave, and you put down roots. Home feels permanent.
I have no home. I am in a constant state of visiting and preparing to leave. Yet I find myself wondering if we were meant to find such a permanent home. “This world is not my home / I’m just a-passing through.” We sing this chorus at camp meeting every year, but it has recently taken on new significance to me. The loss of my father this year has kicked my feeling of homelessness into overdrive. How can this be my home without such an integral member of its ecosystem?
And yet a thought comes to my mind: I am only a transient visitor of this planet, not a permanent resident. And I understand what Jesus meant when He said, “The Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus grew up, and then He, too, was homeless. Not that He had nowhere to stay, but He didn’t have a home. He didn’t take up a permanent residence on earth because He knew He was leaving.
The more and more the world changes, the less I feel attached to it. Sometimes I have thought, “Jesus, wait to come until I get married and have children because I want to experience that before I get to heaven.” But now I pray, “Jesus, come quickly. I want to come home.”