It can be challenging to be far away from family and familiar friends during the holidays, but we can each find that sense of “home”… that deeper, spiritual sense of comfort, peace and joy, no matter where we are. Check out my recent article on how I discovered this a year ago when living on the road and was away from family and old friends for the start of the holiday season.
Finding our home away from home
By Kim Hedge
From the October 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal
Who doesn’t have a strong desire for home and community? The longing for them can be heightened when we’re unable to be out and about with other people, or we find ourselves alone at the holidays.
As a frequent traveler I’ve spent a good many weeks away from home, which is why the hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal that begins, “Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are within thee” (Peter Maurice, adapt., No. 278, © CSBD), has always meant a great deal to me. It’s a potent reminder, as it was for me one particular holiday season, that we can never truly be separated from home and community, and the good we associate with them, such as happiness and companionship.
I had been on the road for several months, away from family and familiar friends. During the week of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, I was housesitting at a friend’s cottage on a lake in a small East Coast town that was home to summer vacationers, but not many year-round residents. It was a beautiful and peaceful place to spend time quietly praying and meditating, as well as reading and studying the Christian Science pastor—the Bible, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. I had made some wonderful new friends in the area but spent a lot of time alone. I got used to the solitude and began to actually enjoy the quiet time.
However, as one who grew up in a city, I found the isolation challenging sometimes. The Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving I was especially missing my family and old friends. As I was praying to God to feel less alone, I felt the impulsion to call in that night to the testimony meeting at my home church, which anyone has an option to join by conference call. These meetings include readings chosen from the Bible and Science and Health on timely topics and testimonies of healing from the congregation.
The readings that night reminded me to trust God with all my cares and that He would satisfy every need. The meeting closed with the very hymn that has been such a support to me through the years:
Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are within thee,
Heir of the ages and child of the day.
Cared for, watched over, beloved and protected,
Walk thou with courage each step of the way.
During my trip I had demonstrated time and again that “home and heaven” truly are within us. In the instances when companionship and love seemed lacking, my prayers to feel God’s tender presence were answered. This was evidence to me of the kingdom of God that Christ Jesus said is within us: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Since this kingdom is within us, we cannot be deprived of, or separated from, all the good this kingdom of heaven includes.
As I listened to the hymn that Wednesday night, the assurance that I was “cared for, watched over, beloved and protected” felt like a giant hug. I felt so comforted, like a child wrapped in God’s mothering love. I was so grateful for that sweet reminder that divine Love is our constant companion since we are inseparable from God as His reflection.
In that moment, I thought of all the others who might be feeling alone on the eve of this beloved holiday, whether they were homeless, or stationed elsewhere in the world for their job, or without family with which to celebrate. As these scenarios came to thought, I included everyone in my prayers with the truth that no one is outside of, or beyond, God’s love, and when we open our thought and our hearts to this ever-present, all-powerful Love, we can’t help but feel its embrace of all mankind.
When companionship and love seemed lacking, my prayers to feel God’s tender presence were answered.
The next morning, when I attended the Thanksgiving church service at a small local Church of Christ, Scientist, in a neighboring town, I initially felt a familiar twinge of loss at not being able to attend my larger branch church among friends. But soon I felt home and heaven right there in that sweet little church. And during the time in the Thanksgiving service when Christian Scientists have an opportunity to share their gratitude for God’s goodness, nearly everyone spoke up, including me. There was the warmest, sweetest feeling of family, community, and home I could have asked for.
Afterward, I chatted with a few members, who checked to be sure I had plans for a meal and wouldn’t be alone. Their kindness, as well as the companionship of some new friends with whom I shared dinner that day, was yet another proof to me of God’s mothering presence. Wherever we are, wherever we go, we are in divine Love’s embrace and can have that sweet sense of home and community that each one of us deserves.