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The Rev. Katy Sundararajan is filling in for Tom today. She is the Master of Theology Program Administrator and International Student Advisor at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan and also serves as an RCA missionary alongside her husband, JP Sundararajan, with Audio Scripture Ministries in India which works with national organizations around the world to produce and distribute audio recordings of God’s Word in a variety of languages. A pastor, a writer, a photographer, and (in Tom’s opinion) one of the best bakers around, Katy spends much of her time and energy raising two young children as followers of Jesus.
Somewhere during the mid to late 90s, at the end of my exit interview at camp, the director asked me if I would close in prayer. We were sitting on the rustic back porch of a pine log lodge surrounded by lush, Adirondack beauty. I could barely begin. What prayer could be said in such a place, about such a place, that would capture the greatness of my gratitude or the significance of the experience? I can hear the vibrant murmuring of nature’s “stillness” intruding into that moment even now. How long was it before the words finally choked out?
God, thank you for giving me a new home here this summer.
In that moment of thankfulness, I realized exactly what it was that I had been aching for, for so long. Home. After a couple of moves with my family, new schools, new friends, new places and spaces that took so long to feel like mine, this place had absorbed me and allowed me-regular, ol’ me- to settle in like I belonged. This is certainly not an unusual thing to have happen at a camp, but it felt wildly exhilarating and infinitely comforting for me to realize that I felt at home there.
It did seem somewhat strange to me that my most home-like place and feelings had generated around such a short-lived, temporary space in the big scheme of my life, but I rejoiced in it, and I held on to it tightly. My life seemed to be setting up for a trend toward movement and momentum. I went to college out of state, but eventually saw my family move again, to the state where I attended college. During college, I studied abroad for a semester, and still traveled back and forth to summer camps too. After graduation, I took an internship on the other side of the country. I returned to my college town for seminary, met and married an international person during that season, and now spend a good portion of my life traveling back and forth to India. Fascinatingly, the place that I traveled to for college and seminary, a place I initially considered a temporary home, is now the place that we own a house. Home has been, still is, and probably always will be something that feels rather elusive to me.
For so long, I’ve found myself wanting to think of home as a specific, long-standing place. To be honest, I still get tripped up by this desire. I am one who desires to live into the long, slow, steady rhythms of life. I often feel disgruntled by my life’s disrupted, disjointed sense of locale and how impossible it feels to settle into a place. But over time, I am learning that my sense of home has a lot more to do with me, and how I let myself live into a place. There is something comforting about being able to be “regular, ol’ Katy” in these many places and spaces, allowing them to absorb me as camp did. It takes the anxiety out of my longing for a home and changes it into a longing that is akin to that longing for an ultimate, heavenly home. My searching and mild case of homelessness never seem to cease, but I’m learning to live faithfully into each place with my whole, honest self and let each place be my home.
Many of you know the beloved camp director that I mentioned at the start of these reflections, Kent Busman. And, many of your know that his house was devastatingly destroyed by fire last week, along with the tragic death of his furry companion, Jonah, in the fire. My heart and mind have been preoccupied on behalf of the Busmans and a handful of other dear friends who are going through deep seasons of loss that change everything. God has given me a great, wide family, the whole world round, including these dear folks that I mention. These fine people are all part of what has shaped my sense of home. These people have allowed me to feel like a regular, ol’ person when I really needed it, standing in the gaps of life with me when times were harder than hard. I pray for the Busmans and for other friends facing loss. When the walls of houses crumble and the familiar, beloved faces depart from us, we must re-gather our sense of home. We must look to the people who will stand there in the gap with us when times are harder than hard. If you are the one hurting today, or you are standing alongside someone in the gap, my prayer is that you would know yourself to be at home, and that you would be comforted.