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Home Is Where You Find It
Mother's Day, May 11, 1997

Home is where you find it. Some of us are fortunate to have been blessed with mothers and/or fathers who provided a home for us. Some, from dysfunctional families, have found a home elsewhere. But, many in our society today are not finding a home anywhere.

What is a home?

Robert Frost said, "Home is the place where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

T. S. Eliot wrote, "Home is where one starts from."

In Minnesota, it is said, "Home is where you hang your hat." And, when you have been absent for a time, or have done something to embarrass the family, you first throw your hat in the door. If the hat stays inside, you are welcome to go on in. If the hat is thrown back out, you had best move on!

A woman told a journalist, "Home is where I get beat up."

My definition of home this morning is, "Home is where you can find the structure and support you need in order to succeed in life." Sometimes the family provides such a home. Sometimes one finds such a home at church. Most of the time, even the best of homes need to be reinforced by other homes, such as church families. And, tragically, today in our society, many have no such homes. G. Lloyd Rediger, a pastoral counselor columnist in the Clergy Journal, wrote,

From the mansion on the hill to the shack by the track; from the nurture of healthy families, to the mental and spiritual deformities of dysfunctional families; from the church that serves as a surrogate family, to the one that ignores or abets human suffering, we find the haves and the have-nots. Those who have homes and those who do not.

In order to succeed in life, Rediger says there are three basic needs: survival, identity, and relationship. Survival is about security. Everyone asks at both the conscious and unconscious levels, "Am I safe here?" When you do not feel safe, when your main concern is survival, you are anxious, frightened, unable to relax, and unable to find identity and develop relationships. You might overindulge in physical and chemical ways to alleviate the distress. You might live by the law of the jungle because your concern is not the welfare of others, nor your own future, but your primary concern is how to survive.

The second need is identity. When you feel safe and secure, then you ask, "Who am I, and what difference do I make? Why am I alive? What am I here for?" If these questions are not answered positively, you will be stuck in a competitive mode. You will be extremely ambitious, narcissistic, and concerned only with your own agenda. You become angry, and not able to receive or give love.

When you feel secure and safe, and when you have developed a positive sense of identity, then you can develop relationships-- healthy, solid, joyful and loving relationships.

The needs for survival, identity and relationship are best satisfied in a home where you can find the structure and support you need in order to feel safe, find your identity, and develop relationships so that you can succeed in life. A home provides security, affirmation and healthy interdependence.

A home, wherever you can find it, provides security. Home is where you can feel safe, protected from violence, demeaning put-downs, and humiliation. Home is where you belong.

A home, wherever you can find it, provides affirmation. Because you are safe, and you are embraced, surrounded by love, respect, affirmation, you have the opportunity to explore who you are, what God is calling you to be and do. Home is where you can find your own unique identity. You are affirmed. Towards the end of World War II, the mother of General Dwight David Eisenhower, Commander of the Allied Forces, was traveling on a train. The woman sitting next to her, who had no idea she was Mrs. Eisenhower, was talking her arm off, bragging about her son. Her son, who was in the Army, had just been made a corporal and the proud woman went on and on raving about her son. Then, she turned to Mrs. Eisenhower and asked about her family. Mrs. Eisenhower said, "Oh, I have a son. He's in the Army too." Even though Mrs. Eisenhower didn't publicly brag about her son, I suspect he received a great deal of affirmation!

A home provides security, affirmation, and healthy interdependence, in which and through which you can learn how to make and develop relationships with people. The first relationships we develop are with parents, siblings, and grandparents. Blessed are those who find those relationships healthy, positive and wholesome. When they are not healthy, home is where you can find it.

Sometimes the family is unable or unwilling to provide the kind of home I am describing this morning. Even when a family is a healthy family, people today need the reinforcement of other homes. How blessed Ellie and I were in the rearing of our three boys. Our home life was supplemented by the church with its Sunday School and youth programs, by Family Camp, and by the good friendships all three of our boys developed. Parents have little or no control over the kinds of friends their children choose, but parents can put their children in the kind of environments where good friends may be found.

The church can be a home for many. Just because a person is not fortunate enough to be raised in a healthy family does not mean he/she cannot find security, affirmation and healthy interdependence in order to meet the basic needs of survival, identity and relationship. The church can be such a home.

The ministry of our church is based on the Trinitarian understanding of God. We know God in three ways as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; as Creator, Redeemer, and Empowerer. Specifically this means;

1) The church is a safe place, a secure place, because our ultimate security is based on the belief: God made you. You have been created by God. You are not a piece of junk. You are not an incidental happening. You are not worthless, and are only good enough to pour drugs or alcohol in. You are a child of God, made by God for a purpose. A child, a youth can find safety in our church. We have rules of behavior here. We believe in accountability and responsibility. Therefore, you can feel safe here. You know you belong because God made you. No one is going to make you feel inferior. No one is going to put you down. No one is going to harm you. No one is going to physically or verbally abuse you. We do not allow such behavior. We provide a structure where there are accepted modes of behavior. There is no security without structure. There is no security without discipline and consistency. Our church is a safe place.

2) Our church provides affirmation because we believe Jesus loves you. God made you. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you just as you are. You do not have to pretend, or bluff, or shock. You are loved here. Sharing is private and confidential. Honesty is respected. No parents are called. No school is told. No spouse is informed. This is a safe place where you can learn and experience how Jesus loves you. Children can find their identity here, their identity as a precious child of God, loved by Jesus, and called to live lives worthy of their Creator and Redeemer.

3) Our church provides groups and fellowship for you to experience healthy interdependence. There are opportunities to develop significant relationships, and the means to live as a child of God, serving, loving, caring and sharing. We believe the Holy Spirit powers you. No one is left to your own devices. No one must make it completely on your own. No one walks the journey all by yourself. We walk together. We are in relationship with one another. God made you, Jesus loves you, and the Holy Spirit powers you.

In my life, the church became a home, reinforcing my family. I was not raised in the church, but I was reared in a loving, supportive family. But, all families need reinforcement, and the little Methodist Church in St. Francis, Minnesota, became a home for me. Through Sunday School, Worship and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), I found security, affirmation, and healthy, solid relationships. Even though my parents were not members and did not attend, the church people made me feel as if I belonged. I was affirmed by other parents, my peers, and the LOLs (little old ladies). I learned and tested leadership skills. I tell my story not because it is spectacular or miraculous. I tell it because my story is ordinary, lived among plain, ordinary people-- salt of the earth people. I tell you my ordinary story to demonstrate the importance how the church can be a home for all of us.

When I was in high school, my birthday fell on Sunday one year. My folks invited me to go with them to our favorite Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis for a birthday supper. Those of you who know me know I love to eat, and I enjoy going out to eat. I had a struggle because Sunday evening was the meeting of the church youth group. I finally decided that my priority was church, because the youth group met every Sunday evening, and I had committed myself. My folks went off without me, and my pastor, who was a college student only a few years older than I, picked me up to go to the youth meeting. On the way, he said he needed to pick up Lois and Phyllis. When we arrived at their house, he asked me to go in with him and wait because they were always late! When we walked through the door, I was greeted by the entire group shouting, "Happy Birthday." It was a surprise party complete with decorations all over the living room-- crepe paper and balloons. There was a cake and lots of presents. What if I had gone to Minneapolis, and missed the party!

In my church, I found a home where I belonged, where I felt safe, was affirmed and enjoyed beautiful, enduring, positive, upbuilding relationships. Where are your homes? I pray you are finding a home in our church.

© 1997 Douglas I. Norris