Yesterday I received an email from my brother containing a link to a film that has been made about a small village in Herefordshire which is situated on the edge of the Forest of Dean.
He sent me the link as he, like myself, remembers how as young children, back in 1964 our parents bought a cottage there for weekend and holiday use. It was an old foresters cottage and was pretty much derelict when my father bought it. Here is a picture of it on the day the purchase was made.
It had no road to it, just a forest track, the nearest neighbour was over half a mile away, there was no running water - only a well and no electricity. But my father had a dream of restoring the cottage and making it into a weekend and holiday retreat for our family. Our main home was not so far away as we lived south of Birmingham and the M5 and M50 made the door to door journey no more than 50 minutes.
With the help of friends and relatives the cottage was indeed lovingly restored to its former glory and made cosy and habitable. We used oil and gas lamps for light and a roaring fire in the inglenook fireplace for heat. We also continued to draw water from the well and there was a chemical loo in a shed in the garden. But despite the small inconveniences this beautiful, remote hideaway on the edge of the Forest was a stunning retreat right in the very heart of nature that I, inspired by my father, love so much. We treasured that place so much that it became more like home to us than our home back in Birmingham.
Many years on, when my siblings and I had married and left home, I continued to use the cottage as a retreat until the day my parents decided that they wanted to sell it. Loathed to let it go my husband and I bought it and then made the necessary changes to make it a family home. We installed electricity and running water, extended the property and made a more accessible road. We started our own family there and they too came to love that precious retreat.
In time we sold it and moved on but, as I said in reply to my brother's email, a huge part of my soul remains there. The film is hard for me to watch as it stirs in me such wonderful memories and longing, it feels like a deep yearning for home!
But that sense of yearning for home is not unusual. Many people will look back to the place of upbringing with fondest memories and sense a longing to revisit or to turn back time. Some will even look back to their ancestral roots and feel a deep connection with their motherland even though they may never have been there themselves. I can relate to this too having descended from those who came to England from Ireland in the latter years of the potato famine. A good chunk of my DNA is Irish and I undoubtedly feel that connection. Indeed President Joe Biden, also an Irish descendent feels exactly that connectedness despite never having lived in Ireland himself.
These examples of deep yearning for deep connections are extremely common and you may have your own stories to tell. They are the stories that shape us and contribute towards making us who we are.
In a beautiful poem by Willian Wordsworth called a Lines composed a few miles above Tintern this same yearning is easily recognisable as he points out that even though, absent from that place for a long time, the sweet sensation of its remembrance carried him through the weariness felt in lonely rooms, 'mid the din Of towns and cities’.
But I have come to see over the years that there is a deeper longing to which all of these are but mere signposts. And though we can never turn the clock back, if we discover the deeper longing then we realise that there is a homecoming that puts to rest all of our temporal longings for people for places and for times gone by as we discover that, in the great mystery of all things, the sense of separation that we feel is just an illusion.
That deeper longing, whether we are able to articulate it or not, is of course our longing for our true home in God.
God, though, is not something that is bounda
ried by time or place. Discovering our home in God is about awakening to a new way of perceiving - a unitive consciousness in which any separation from God, we now realise, was nothing more than mere illusion. We come to experience God’s ground in our own soul and it is here that we find absolute security of knowing that all things shall be well.
Awakening to the unitive state can be fragile though, we have spent so long under the illusion of separation that we are bound to lapse back to our old ways of seeing things - and then sadness and yearning creeps over us once again for all our precious memories of all the people, places and times that we believe are lost to us.
Of course there will come a time when this linear world is over for us and we will fully know that unitive, eternal consciousness as our forever home.
But while we are here on earth, as we awaken to and strengthen in our sense of oneness with God, we increasingly realise that nothing that we have loved is ever lost to us and that the presence of all that we have truly loved is always with us, safely residing in God, in the very core of our own being.
And whilst our liner minds will never fathom the metaphysics, once we discover our true home in God then all our other longings will be satisfied and the promise that all our tears will be wiped dry is made good.