Last month on the blog, I shared about a time in my life when I came back to church after a long season away. Since writing that post, I’ve had the opportunity to share the story (multiple times) with several of the Sunday greeter and connection teams at my new church here in Georgia. No matter how many times I share the memory, I tend to get choked up at the same point in the story. It’s the point when my heart is flooded with the realization that it’s finally home.
Home is not so much a place on the map but an assurance in my heart.
I slowly started learning this after my mom passed away. After her death, going home was never the same. My heart went through a period of serious adjustment. I had to come to terms with the fact that home would never look and feel like it did when she was alive. I had to learn (and must continue to learn) to live expectantly without expectations.
In a couple of weeks, I’m going back home to Arizona for a visit with my dad. Since his stroke (which left him paralyzed on his left side 3 1/2 years ago) I’ve had to remind myself prior to any visits, that the ideal Norman Rockwell picture of home is just that…a picture. It doesn’t exist. My bed-ridden dad currently lives in his caretaker’s house with three other elderly men. My once fiercely independent dad now must depend on the assistance of others to get out of bed, to use the bathroom, to shower, and to get dressed.
Nowadays, going home means sleeping in the spare bedroom of my oldest brother’s house. It means making the 20 minute trip across town a couple of times a day to spend time with my dad. I sit by his bedside and we talk or I eat a meal with him on the back porch of his caretaker’s house. Our conversations during my visits will center predominantly around two topics: Either my dad is bringing me up to speed on the frequency (or infrequency) of his bowel movements or my dad is reminding me of how miserable he is, and that he refuses to be happy unless he can go home to live.
Over the past three years, I’ve made suggestion on ways he could attempt to make his situation less miserable…read a book, listen to books on CD (which I bought for him and he listened to for about 10 minutes), do crossword puzzles, make friends with the other men that live there…but the suggestions always come to rest on deaf ears. It’s like the familiar saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.”
One thing I’ve learned through this season is that you can’t force someone to be happy. You can’t force someone to try to “make the best” of a miserable situation. I’m not trying to downplay my dad’s bleak situation and I also know that I don’t have a clue how I would respond if I were in the same situation. But, I do know that misery (in many ways) is a choice.
It’s difficulties like this that remind me of how powerless I truly am to change another person. The only thing I do have control over is how I react and how I respond. So, here’s my goal and my prayer for my next visit: I want to bring the Light into my dad’s drab little world. I want this Light to burn so brightly and so intensely that my dad will know, without any doubts, that this Light is the light that will guide him home.
Because home is not a place on the map but an assurance in your heart.
More than being able to walk again, more than being able to live at his previous home address, I want my dad’s heart to find its true home.