Sooner or Later

A Dakota Plain

Sooner or later everyone comes home.

I read that line in a mystery novel last week. Even though it was spoken by a detective about a murder suspect returning to the scene of the crime, the truth of it struck home for me.

When I was 18, I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown of Tiffin, Ohio to move to the big city of Columbus to attend college. I lived in Columbus for 20 years. After seminary, I asked to be sent out west. The bishops, in their wisdom, sent me as far west as northeast Indiana. I lived there for 10 great years. Then the Spirit called me to Perrysburg, outside Toledo, Ohio and suddenly I found myself only an hour away from my hometown. Now I am less than an hour away from my hometown, serving in Norwalk, Ohio, a small city very much like where I grew up. Over the past 40 years, I made a little circle, winding up pretty much right back where I started. And you know what? It’s OK.

Sooner or later everyone comes home.

Here’s why it’s OK that I’m back home: home is a place where you know the people. Even though I knew no one in Norwalk before I came, I knew who they were. I knew how they thought, how their lives went, and what was important to them. I knew this because they are the very people who shaped the early years of my life which prepared me for ministry.

And I know the landscape of this place—not just the physical landscape, but the spiritual and emotional landscape. It’s my landscape too. Even with all those years of city living, the landscapes of this part of Ohio are deeply ingrained in my being and continue to shape the person that I am today.

Sooner or later everyone comes home.

Theologian Kathleen Norris wrote an excellent book entitled Dakota, in which she talked about our spiritual landscapes and how the geography in which we live shapes us in profound ways. As someone who grew up in western North Dakota, she was shaped by the unique beauty and emptiness-that-is-not-empty which is the American plains. No matter where she went or lived, the plains were always home. (I commend her book to you.)

Sooner or later everyone comes home.

Often, people come home when they die. I have spoken that line at many a funeral: that so-and-so came home to this town/this church/this people. There’s something so compelling about home that even someone who has lived the majority of their life somewhere else will often want to come home to be buried. I suppose that’s the “later” part of “sooner or later.”

Sooner or later everyone comes home.

And of course, as people of faith, we trust that one day we will all be home with God. I don’t agree with theology that says our “true” home is with God: that belittles and ignores the importance of the earthly homes that so deeply shape our lives. But I do believe that our ultimate home will be when we return to the One who created us out of love and who will welcome us back into the fullness of that love when our earthly lives end.

Until that time, I invite you to consider how your spirit/soul/being was shaped by your home—good or bad—and to consider what home means for you. Because, sooner or later, everyone comes home.



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