Although I recall being primarily tired and bored, I nevertheless feel a strong attachment to the end of the Southern Baptist church service, the invitation. Here, sinners are given the opportunity to respond to God's call, to accept His invitation and make a public declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. They are testifying to being born again, saved. The ordinary dimension of these services (and we went to church three times a week, more during revivals) was that I generally spaced out, read, was antsy, planning what I would do later, something like that. Yet, among the few hymns that move me today were those sung or played during the invitation.
Perhaps most powerful, or the one I find myself singing or humming or remembering, the one that comes upon me unawares when I'm listless or empty or waiting or out of sorts or in between, is 'Softly and Tenderly.' In my head, it's always sung by Cynthia Clawson (who, I'll add, is a close friend of my family's, having sung at my mother's funeral and my father's next marriage). The words I generally recall are from the chorus, "Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home. Ernestly, tenderly Jesus is calling, calling oh sinner come home."
The idea of coming home is powerful among evangelicals. Many draw on Biblical parallels between the promised land and the New Jerusalem, between the prodigal son and forgiven sinner. It may be that American religiosity, or the impact of Protestantism on the US, explains the continued power of this kind of rhetoric. Or it may be that the religious roots are 'vanishing mediators,' that the power extends beyond the religious, to the secular popular, "there's no place like home." One doesn't have to be religious, for example, to enjoy ""Amazing Grace." "Twas Grace that brought us safe thus far, and Grace will lead us home."
Yet, I wonder if the power of the image of coming home may be more than religious, or if the religious power comes from another, more fundamental or primordial longing, a longing for completeness, wholeness, to be wholly occupied or connected, a longing we can also think of, if it helps, via the lacanian notion of jouissance. We come to be in being apart, separated, divided. As separate, we long. I think sometimes about the way that I don't realize how attached I am to something or someone, to a practice or routine, until it's gone. (I sometimes tell myself this is why I prefer long, long novels to short stories. After I'm attached, I don't want it to stop.)
Admittedly, jouissance may not add much. Yet, as I think of 'coming home,' I'm pathetically moved by cliches (and here I add that cliches are cliches precisely insofar as they are powerful, insofar as they touch larger themes and tenets and thereby remind us of our constitution in and through ideologies). One cliched moment was something I read about Matthew Broderick on a talk show (Ellen?). Like most guests at the time, he was asked what he expected God to say to him when he arrived in heaven. Broderick answered, 'welcome home.' George W. Bush relied on the same feeling/image after the Discovery disaster, "The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home."
It seems to me that we repeat, regularly, the experience of coming to be through being apart, separated. It's stupid and frustrating to me when I notice how much the absence of a regular little practice (watching a television show at 9:00 on Sunday evenings) makes me a feel a gap, a hole that needs to be filled in but that wasn't there before the practice. I didn't start saying, gee, what should I do at 9:00 on Sundays? Rather, I fell into it, and then later noticed the absence. And this absence was a strange sense of presence as well, a presence of myself, although empty, ready.
I wonder about powerful alternative metaphors and images, those around nomadism, travel, adventure. I'm not well read enough to pull up strong examples of these right now. Instead, I think of the Odyssey and the Wizard of Oz (the home over the rainbow of love and acceptance). "Hello, Dolly" comes to mind--"it's so nice to have you back where you belong....Dolly will never go away again." And, I think, vaguely, of the enchantment of new destinations, new settlements through a language like 'we are finally home' or the way some of us are drawn to create the home we never had before, the one that we wished for, the one behind the failures and miseries in which we may have been trapped. Here, we may say, again, we are home. Our arrival has become a return, of sorts.
Home may be how we imagine the completeness we lack.