by John Owens
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Have you ever tried going home again…back to the place where you grew up? There is something that draws many of us back. Maybe it’s the desire to return to the security and warmth we experienced as children in familiar places. How much we would love to re-live the happy times spent together with our parents and others, especially if we have been separated from them in later years.
Perhaps you have tried it as I have. Personally, “going home again” was not the experience for which I longed, though interesting. Over forty years had passed and I really didn’t expect to see things as I remembered them to be.
As I approached the sleepy little Florida community from the north, I found it was no longer an easy access from the main highway. A new bypass made it easy to miss. After a few out-of-the-way turns, however, I was once again on a vaguely familiar road. Soon I spotted some houses that tugged at past memories…freshly painted and not quite the same, but surprisingly, still there. Could the kids still be living there, I wondered…grown now, of course…Would we even recognize each other or be as relaxed together as we once were as children?
Eventually I rounded the curve onto the old drive I knew so well. There it was…with the same trees out front and the very same lawn I had spent my sweaty youth mowing…It was the house we called “home”. How strangely small everything now seemed... Such a tiny place to contain so much history…almost surrealistic. Hardly anything had changed about its physical appearance. It was the same house where I once lived with Mom, Dad, my younger brother and our dog. Something deep within me wanted to dash up to the front door, swing it open, and exclaim, “I’m home!” It was where I once belonged, was accepted and loved, pimples and all. As much as I yearned to be there again though, I couldn’t. The reality of time and death had placed an invisible barrier between me and the place I once called “home”…It simply wasn’t there and another family now owned the premises.
I continued slowly around the circular road I once knew bump by bump as a boy on my bike. At one point I pulled off, opened the car door, and stepped into history…It was alongside a golf course at the edge of a dark, winding lagoon. The metal pipe with its chain had been dug up, but it was the exact site where I had kept my boat, long before having a car. This spot represented my childhood doorway to adventure. The lagoon stretched for miles throughout our coastal community; and if a kid had a boat, it opened up a whole new world of fellowship and travel in a subtropical waterway, including the chance of meeting a live gator up to twelve feet in length. People fed them from their docks in the evenings and sometimes lost their overly-curious pets. We could shine a light across the water and pick up their eerie red eyes glowing in the dark, but in the daytime they drifted along looking like harmless old boots or lay on the banks like logs. With a look-out posted, kids could dive for golf balls without great fear; but, underwater, it was impossible to see, even with a mask. I still remember holding my breath and kicking while sliding my fingers through the soft mud bottom, hoping to hit a small round treasure.
The golfers had made it across the water and onto the green in one stroke. Once their cart left the bridge, I wandered over and leaned against the rail. There were no others in sight and, once again, I was left alone with my memories. I took a deep breath…and then another. Something was trying to connect me to the past even more than this place on the bridge where I hooked my first catfish, a huge fish from a boy’s perspective. Yes, it was the same smell in the air, as if preserved in time. While man had been able to alter the shape of the surroundings, there was still, after all those years, the distinct sensation of salty ocean air passing over the dunes mixing with the aroma of fresh cut grass and that mysterious scent of the lagoon. Isn’t it strange how a smell can suddenly link emotions of past joys and sorrows…like a song from the past which sparks memories of a first date… It was time to leave.
I have heard it said, “You can never go home again”, and I agree. I’ve tried and discovered that the past is far more than places and things. We could have grown up in a desert or on a river houseboat and still have had sweet memories. The key that can no longer be found is in relationships which are always dynamic and changing. They are a one-time event which can never be duplicated through time and circumstances. Sometimes the loss of someone close can drive us to regain those precious moments. It seems to be part of our programming along with the painful realization of its impossibility. It began a long time ago in a garden when a perfect relationship was broken and death became part of the human experience. However, if I understand the written record correctly, we have a loving Father and Creator who has already taken the steps necessary to turn our tears into joy. Let me encourage you to read about it as I have. There is a power there to change the very way we perceive the past as well as the present. If this life were truly all that there is, then despair would be the only rational answer. But I am convinced there is more…far more…and a family longing for our reunion like none other we have ever experienced.
What a shallow and futile existence it would be to have hope only in this life. Of course, there is a certain measure of gladness and laughter to enjoy in this life; but, eventually, we are all confronted with “the last enemy to be destroyed”..,that is,..”death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). I’ve never enjoyed a funeral and don’t see any reason too…God never refers to death as a friend; but, He does have a way of using it to awaken us to reality and to draw us back to His waiting family. Let us never doubt His love or life-giving power after what He has done through His only begotten Son, through His death and resurrection. I could stand in front of my old house and cry out all night long for past loved ones with no response; but, the moment I cry out to God from a child-like heart, He has promised to hear and answer. This promise is to all who call upon His Name. I could walk across man-made bridges all day long and never find purpose for the past or present; but, the moment I put my trust in Jesus Christ, He becomes my spiritual bridge to the Holy Father; and a peace that surpasses any earthly peace enters my heart. Have you found it? It will guide you home.
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