The Spring of 2020 brought unplanned detours to nearly every life’s journey.
Some of them were deeply stressful, signifying the end of a job or the end of a dream. Some of them brought the unexpected rearrangement of wedding dates and vacation plans. Some of the challenges sidetracked people from their pursuit of mental and emotional health.
In the end, however, I think that what we’ll remember is not what we had to detour around, but what we detoured into.
For example, I’ll always remember that this season brought about an abundance of family time at our house. It was like a holiday that lasted for two months and, instead of Christmas music, we had disinfecting rituals in obnoxious quantities.
In full disclosure, we were fortunate because, as homeschoolers, we didn’t have to shift our schedule too much. My wife enjoyed having a little extra help during times of instruction. My kids enjoyed more time to be creative (and play extra video games). I even enjoyed seeing clients via telehealth from my home office. It was nice to take a trampoline break between helping clients cope with the quarantine or helping marriages make the slow and slippery steps toward reconciliation.
We all settled into a new rhythm and enjoyed a lot about our new home-orientation.
But no one enjoyed it as much as our youngest daughter. We finalized her adoption 2 years ago (after our Rescue 100 training)but there was something about this season of black tar, street grade, 180-proof family time that touched something deep inside of her.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise to any of us. A few months before the adoption, she came to stay with us for a night so her foster mom could visit family out of town. She woke up early the next morning and we were spending a little time doodling on our dry-erase board. I drew a simple design of three hearts inside each other (think two-dimensional Russian nesting dolls).
She immediately pointed to them and said, “look, a daddy heart, a mommy heart, and a baby heart.”
It was a simple moment that showed something deep within her 3 year-old baby heart. Even though she hadn’t known that family arrangement before in her life, she was somehow deeply oriented to it. She saw ‘family’ and ‘home’ in that picture, even though it included no faces or walls.
What is it about ‘home’ that is so significant to us? What do we find when we retreat into it during a crisis? What have we created when we open it up so that others can find their place there? Here are a few things that I’ve seen in my clients and in my own family:
Home is where we know others and others know us.
People in our home know us better than we do sometimes. They know what we look like when we are sleepy, how we like our hamburgers, and they know what will help when we have a bad day. They know the nothings that make up our everythings.
That knowledge creates a sense of grounding in our lives. No matter where our lives, hearts or minds take us, we can explore when we know there’s a place to land and there are people who can still see the real us in the midst of any changes that may come. Home allows us to risk and risk allows us to really live.
Home is where we ‘feel’ safe.
Safety isn’t a thought, it’s a feeling. Have you ever thought about that?
For many of us, home was the place we retreated during the early days of the Coronavirus outbreak. It was a bubble in the midst of bad news and scary days. We Lysoled our mail, took off our shoes, and spent time talking about our gameplan, all to preserve a precious sense of safety.
And it felt good. Safety always feels good, that’s why it’s one of the deepest core needs we have. It’s so powerful that if we don’t experience it during our early years, we’ll spend the rest of our lives looking for safety in wild and sometimes worrisome ways.
Home is where we are human beings, not human doings.
Finally, home is the place that we go to get beyond our striving. It’s soothing in seasons of natural complications and competitions, but it’s absolutely necessary in seasons of crisis.
The reality is that many of us found new comfort at home because we experienced a crisis all around us in ways that we never have before. We experienced something new but, sadly, we experienced uncertainty and stress in ways that children from hard places experience all the time. I think it’s important for us to remember that.
In our Foster Parent Support Group, we’ve heard many stories of children showing up to new homes on their best behavior. They put their dishes in the sink, fold their clothes, and keep their toys in order, often putting their new foster siblings’ behavior to shame. It’s refreshing for some new foster families and everyone appreciates the extra help. But at some point, they realize that it’s just another coping mechanism. Like thumb sucking or anger outbursts, these signs of perfectionism are just another way for these kids to create a sense of worth and connection in the midst of their struggle for survival.
They are in a home, but they are not at home.
As enjoyable as the chore diligence is, it often fades quickly with a sense of belonging. While that may be annoying on one level, most foster parents realize that there is nothing more impactful than a growing sense of security for a young heart. Once this pressure to perform is gone, their little personalities and uniquenesses can shine through.
They eventually begin to find the power of home. The same one that many of us have experienced and have been changed by.
As you read through this today, I hope it stirs within you a sense of gratitude for some of the simple detours that you have taken over the last few months. When we become thankful for being able to walk new roads (or familiar and comfortable roads we’ve already travelled down countless times) we look for new opportunities for growth, even if they seem daunting or scary at first. ‘Home’ gives us permission to slow down and retreat in some seasons, but in others it sends us fearlessly looking for ways to expand and risk.
People connected to the work of an organization like 200 Million Flowers know that expansion and risk can make all the difference for those out there who are longing for home just like us.
Pat Ward integrates the skills he learned in pastoral ministry with research-based therapeutic techniques from his pursuit of a Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health. He works with individuals and couples to help them overcome obstacles, repair their relationships, and shape their story as they move on to the next chapter. For more information, visit https://www.patward.info/