I used to move around a lot – even as kids, my sister and I had numerous changes of school. As I got older and left home, this became a pattern: when things got tough, rather than stick it out, I found it easier to leave. If I was frustrated with work, had relationship troubles or had something I didn’t like about my flat, a deep feeling of restlessness filled my gut. I got edgy and my itchy feet told me that a move would fix things. Usually though, after the novelty wore off from being in a new place and rearranging my furniture, I found I was not really any happier.
Over the years, a cycle would occur – I’d move, yet couldn’t feel a part of the church and community. Everyone already had their family and friends and neat social circle. This feeling of being alone, being the outsider, motivated me to move again to where the ‘grass was greener’. I didn’t stay in one place long enough to form the deep friendship which would help me to feel at home, like I belonged. Like the prodigal son in the Bible story, it was I who had consciously gone away, chip on my shoulder, estranging myself from support.
When my daughter was three, I’d had enough – in 9 years I’d lived in 15 different homes from Brisbane to Darwin to Perth. This didn’t include numerous temporary stays at the homes of family and friends. All this time I cherished my transient lifestyle, calling it ‘independence’. But what I really needed – for me and my daughter – was to be closer to family. Perhaps I should finally settle down and find somewhere to call home.
I decided to move to Stanthorpe in south Queensland. This is the town where my mother and her extended family had lived… the town where we had all gathered for family Christmases each year when I was a child.
While I knew in theory that it would be rewarding to live in the same town as aunties and uncles and cousins, I was not prepared for the warmth I felt at having instant recognition. Friends of family knew me from when I was little, or they could recall my mum or nanna. Their regard for my family was passed on to my by association. Like the prodigal son who came back to a celebratory feast, my family was happy to welcome me and call me one of their own. Now at last, I felt accepted – not by some wonderful things I had achieved, or could do – but simply because I was family. Nothing could change that.
The family unit is such a strong network of virtually unconditional love. Which is why God says when we come to Him, we are automatically counted as part of His family. God is our loving Father and no matter what we do, or where we go, He is willing to welcome us back home.
“…From the distant east and the furthest west I will bring your people home. I will tell the north to let them go and the south not to hold them back. Let my people return from distant lands, from every part of the world. They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.” Isaiah 43: 5 – 7, Good News Bible