I love to travel, and I love to come home. When I leave my house for an extended time, I actually say out loud, “Bye house!” And when I return, I say, “Welcome home!” How often have you visited someone and they said, “Make yourself at home!” Of course, this is meant as an invitation to be yourself, to feel free to be comfortable and to ask for or seek out what you need to feel “at home.”
On Sunday mornings in the congregation I serve, we open our services with a litany of welcome, ending with, “You are welcome. You are home.” The first time guest may be thinking this is somewhat presumptuous, but what I think we really mean is, “Make yourself at home.” Be yourself. Ask for or seek out what you need to know, do, or feel to make this your spiritual and religious home. And we’ll do everything we can to accommodate your journey towards making this feel like a home for you, as it has become for so many others over the years. This sense of “home” in a religious community is a feeling that is deep inside us … a sense of knowing we are in the right place at the right time with the right people, and that we are completely accepted for who we are. I think this is one of the greatest gifts we can offer people in our lives.
As the holidays approach, many people will host gatherings in their homes or travel to gather in the home of relatives or friends. These gatherings can be delightful highlights of one’s year, or very challenging for those who grapple with complicated family relationships, loved ones who are missing from the table, or tension brought on by different political or religious perspectives. These are times in which a sense of home can be missing for any number of reasons, and we need to “make ourselves at home.”
I think in those difficult situations, our sense of “home” has to come from deep within our own being. “Home” can be found in the deep knowing that whatever challenges we face, we are enough just as we are, even as we continue to evolve, grow, and develop in our understanding of ourselves. And, we can say “Welcome home” to those around us when we allow that they too are enough just as they are, with no attachment to who or what they may become. For isn’t that what most people want … to be loved and accepted unconditionally for who they are? This is a gift you can give yourself every day … to look in the mirror and give yourself a hearty “Welcome home!”