by Helen Hollingsworth—
It has been rightly said that everyone must be someplace because there really is no such thing as no place. There are all kinds of wonderful places to be. Maybe you aspire to be in some of them. Or some of you may be in those places already. Good for you.
Do you remember Dorothy’s quest through the land of Oz in search of that perfect place? Eventually she found it with three simple clicks of her heels as she pensively repeated: “There’s no place like home.” I’d always heard (and perhaps you have too) that “home is where the heart is.”
Recently I undertook the process of relinquishing the home left to me by my parents. God promises us “grace and glory” (Psalm 84:11, NLT), and I found that grace in my parents’ home when I fled an abusive marriage with my young daughter. I hadn’t realized then how the house would also reveal God’s glory.
What God brings you through, God can also bring you to. I came to this house seeking a safe haven. After me, so did others who were homeless—some who were native to the U.S., some who were refugees. This house—first home to my parents; then to my parents, my daughter and me; then to many diverse tenants who made it their own—will soon be home to others. As I’ve worked to prepare it to become a home for someone new, here is what I’ve learned:
A STRONG FOUNDATION
Prayer is the foundation of any dwelling. Without it, a house will fall. For almost 12 years, I became my mother’s caretaker as dementia slowly robbed her of her mind, diabetes took her eyesight, and arthritis rendered her wheelchair-bound. When I was young, the dining room and the family table had been command central for my diminutive mother. I often heard her praying for me, as I whisked around, busy with motherhood and ministry. In her later years I learned by observing her that even if one’s mind teeters on lucidity, a true worshipper enters into God’s presence via the Spirit (John 4:23). Although our house was tempest-tossed, its foundation remained.
AN ALTAR TO WORSHIP
Home is wherever your heart builds an altar to worship the true and living Christ. In Genesis 28:10-16, Jacob spends the night in a solitary space and has an encounter with God—the preincarnate Christ. Awakening, Jacob declares, “Surely the Lord is in this place.” Later he builds an altar about that rock and calls it Beth-el: the house of God. We, too, can be at home and rest our cares upon the rock which is Jesus. God takes our hearts, where the Spirit lives, and makes them home. The New Testament calls it being born again or awakened. Like Jacob and so many of our biblical ancestors, we have a new perspective. I had an awakening too. I realized that my inheritance was not this physical house, but the spiritual home forged here.
THE SWIRLING SPIRIT
While sweeping the floor to prepare the house for new occupants, I saw a fine dust rise, spiraling upward. I couldn’t help but smile, recalling the Okambiga church dancers, a community dance group I once helped organize. The group took its name from an Oshiwambo word in the Bantu language that means “swirling spirit.”
The Holy Spirit was indeed active, swirling within these walls. I remembered how the floors were once covered with makeshift sleeping bags, full of giggling teenage girls enjoying a sleepover. Some of the girls were the daughters of Theresa, who came from South America with her five children and nothing else save a positive attitude and a penchant for making tacos so good, they made you holler “Amen” after the first bite. Theresa’s favorite answer to every difficulty was, “It’s all good, Pastor.” Sort of like Romans 8:28. At a recent worship service, Theresa humbly testified about how God had blessed her to go from homeless to homeowner.
The Rev. Helen Hollingsworth discovered 45 years ago that God loves her. Before that, she was just like a church pew—sitting in the sanctuary, but wooden and lifeless. Retired from official pastoral duties, she teaches online and operates a community food bank.
This article is excerpted from the January/February 2020 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.