In December 2016, I submitted the following guest blog to Jen Pollock Michel, for her guest series called, “Home: Musings and Memories.” Jen invited writers from all over the Internet to share their stories from home—in advance of her new book, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home (IVP, Spring 2017).
As she puts it: “I believe home is our most fundamental longing, homesickness our most nagging grief. Most of all, I believe that the historic Christian faith has something to say about that desire and disappointment. The story of Jesus is a home story.”
A hug. As a 40-year-old male born and raised in the 20th century and living now in the 21st, it can be difficult to embrace that three-letter word, much less the act. We’re still not a culture who feels like it’s a socially acceptable expression for men to give and receive. Even now, despite my greatest efforts to bunk the mainstream flow of culture, it’s with some timidity that I use that word to describe my feelings of the home in which I live today. And yet that’s just what it is.
My home is a hug.
Walking across the threshold feels like walking into a full, wide-armed embrace. Like standing at the center of complete submission. Like free falling into complete trust and total dependence upon the giver.
My wife and I first felt the hug of our home, after the first of three unsuccessful adoptions in 2010.
It wasn’t what we expected to be walking into that day. After multiple miscarriages, as well as several failed fertility treatments and surgical procedures, we thought we’d finally found our path to parenthood. Adoption would be the way. And at first, it all seemed undeniable. With no hurdles in the paperwork process, sufficient money in the bank, and a quick match with a birthmother who was due in three months, all signs pointed toward a simple adoption process.
But in the waning hours of our waiting—while standing at the doorway of parenthood—we discovered that the welcome mat would again be pulled out from under us. Our birth mother decided that day not to place her child for adoption.
And there we sat, after swinging wildly from elation, joy, uncertainty, anxiety, anger, and sadness, in utter disbelief. And to home we later returned, from an empty hospital room and with an empty car seat. And into a hug we entered.
And it lingered.
For the next three years, we stood, collapsed, fought, kicked, and surrendered inside that hug. It would not withdraw. And more than we knew at the time, it was just what we needed.
We needed it to linger through two more failed adoptions, and through all the emotional stress that followed. Through the therapy we both leaned into, and the messy work that it required.
We needed it when the cracks started to appear and expand in our marriage. We needed it when the thought of divorce first appeared to me, through the wrestling with the idea, and through the eventual acceptance that I did not need to be destined to continue my family’s lineage of marital breakups. Through the hope that my marriage could survive and maybe even thrive again.
And we needed it when the fog began to lift. When our broken spirits had mended. When the hope for parenthood returned to our hearts. We needed it when we decided to find a new adoption agency and put ourselves out there again. When we got matched with a birth mother again and then returned to a hospital with transformed souls.
We needed it when we first met the baby boy we hoped to call our son. When we looked into his eyes — the need in our hearts meeting halfway in those shared glances. We needed it that night in the hospital, through the feeding, changing, and snuggling.
And we needed it the next morning when we woke, when the adoption paperwork was finally signed, and when we officially became united!
What is that hug of our home?
It’s the greeting of thoughts and prayers promised for us by friends and family. It’s the memory of our own petitions. It’s a reminder of past embraces surrounding our joy, pain, sadness, disappointment, and hope. It’s the very real embrace of the spirit of God who loves us always.
It’s a tight clasp of the known while waiting in the unknown.
Presently, I pen these words from a hospital waiting room, while my wife undergoes surgery to remove more endometriosis inside her body. We don’t know what awaits us on the other side. We’re not sure the severity of its invasion or the full scope of treatment needed.
And so I sit in that unknown right now, thankful that hug will be awaiting us when we return home.