Today’s installment in the “There’s No Place Like Home” series is Debbie Duncan, lovely author I had the privilege of working with at Authentic Media with the release of her co-authored book Life Lines, a brilliant fictionalized-but-based-in-reality look at friendship. She’s a minister’s wife and nurse who has taught at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing, King’s College London. She and Malcolm have four teenage children and live in Buckinghamshire, UK.
Am I a turtle without his shell?
We have a natural affinity to the past; something captivates us when we hear where are from or when we learn about our ancestors. Certainly the television programme, “Who do you think you are” has been a huge success, facilitating an increase in people looking into their own genealogy. I have managed to get back to 1600 in my family tree, uncovering a pirate called Foxy Ned, a lady of the manor who ran off with the groomsman and a diamond scandal. My family have many roots in many countries and I cannot on good authority say where I am from, although I do claim to be Scottish as Scotland is where I spent my formative years. Home, however, is a different matter.
Home is where I feel safe, surrounded by those I love. At the moment we are based in Buckinghamshire, having lived in the same house for more than five years, which is a record for us. Three of my children are presently away from home at university. When my oldest daughter, Anna, went, she had a box of decorations for her room. It was really important to her that this box was packed and went with her. In fact she packed it before she packed any clothes or books. On her first evening in her new halls the box was un-packed and she strung up her lights and hung up her photos.
Susan Clayton, an environmental psychologist says, “For many people, their home is part of their self-definition.” They have bought in to this concept of home, paying for a mortgage or spending money renovating and decorating buildings. Walls are covered with photos and pictures of where we have been and shelves are covered with souvenirs from past adventures. I have to confess I have the odd smattering of tartan throughout the house.
“Where are you from” is an important question but “where do you call home?” should be the question we ask. And if we think that “home is where the heart is” then home is where we are right now. For the moment for us that’s in Chalfont St Peter, where I have come to love the community. For instance, when we experienced tragic loss earlier this year I had a strong desire to stay at home – I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to feel safe and secure surrounded by people I know.
I am made even more aware of how much I value this place I call home as I have been involved in a pilot project in a nearby town as an outreach nurse for the homeless. They live in a hostel where they are supported by a variety of care givers and staff. They may not have a physical space that they have decorated but they have a place of safety where people care for them. Some of the clients have talked about how they feel exposed not having their own place – a little like a turtle without his shell.
As Christians our natural trajectory should be towards our real home. This place I live in is a temporary measure but like a turtle without a shell maybe this keeps me focused, awaiting the day when I am made whole and complete. The money I spend on my surroundings means where I live looks comfortable and may reflect some of my identity but that is only truly revealed when I am in my real home.
Home is where we are right now, but for those who believe in Jesus it is also only a temporary state. I am not defined by the pirates and diamond dealers of my past or whether I am English or Scottish. I am defined by being part of God’s kingdom, heading towards my final destination of my real home.
Reepicheep, the valiant talking mouse in CS Lewis’ book The Last Battle, stood on the shore at the end of the story and said, “I have come home at last! This is my real country. I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life.” He may not have been a turtle, but he found his shell.