“Most people have forgotten nowadays what a home can mean, though some of us have come to realise it as never before. It is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary. It is not founded on the shifting sands of outward or public life, but has its resting place in God, for God gives it special meaning and value, its own nature and privilege, its own destiny and dignity”
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer; A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell, May 1943)
I have found a new home away from home. My own home, the one created and shaped by my parents is still there and is still a kingdom of its own, as Bonhoeffer so beautifully describes. But here with my flatmate in a rented space I have found a sanctuary. The challenge now is to ensure that it does indeed find its resting place in God.
The context of this passage is a wedding sermon, which extols at length the responsibilities of both bride and groom to each other and to the institution of marriage. I would assume – for the time and setting of Bonhoeffer and his contemporaries – that these two, Renate and Eberhard, had not lived together before they married. And so with the newness of marriage comes the newness of communal living and sleeping: mornings and waking and dressing together, the welcome home, the kiss good night, the sleepnessness of 3am broken by another’s soft breathing; weekends of alternate boredom and activity under the watchful gaze of another’s restlessness or lethagy; mood swings and spoken word that threaten peace or soothe the tempests.
I have never lived with a lover, but I have lived with others and still do. I know what it’s like to live with someone, to leave my parents’ house and to make my own home. Several in fact – in South Africa, at university and now in London.
If the people I live with do not pray to the same God or share the same faith, can a home still be a sanctuary that rests in Him. I think so. I also think that part of the challenge of commuting is how far you can take that sanctuary with you, or how closely you can hold it to your heart. A home is more than its physical being. It is that comfort, that security which says “here you are safe to just be.”
Bonhoeffer paints it in a far more idealistic light: “It is an ordinance of God in the world, the place in which – whatever may happen in the world – peace, quietness, joy, love, purity, discipline, respect, obedience, tradition, and , with it all, happiness may dwell.”
Perhaps one of the things I treasure about my home (both the one with my family and the one with me) is that it’s not all peace and joy – there are tears and rages and worries and fears, but they are manageable and more so in a sanctuary where there is acceptance and a chance to indulge these negative feelings without recourse to professionalism or judgement or misunderstanding.
It is so strange then that we seem to approach the commute with a mixed bag of apathy and isolation? It could and should never be a home, but it is both the journey that takes us away from it and the delay before we can be safe again.