HomecomingAutumn is nearly upon us, and recently I asked some friends what came to their minds when they thought about ‘homecoming’. What thoughts and feelings do they associate with the idea of returning home? Answers ranged from ‘Heaven’ to ‘mother’s home cooking,’ to ‘game night’ and even ‘football and decorated mums’.

Most people have happy memories from childhood, family, friends, hometown happenings. The term “homecoming” implies that someone has left center camp and is now returning. We often get sentimental about the past—it is appealing to wistfully re-experience sights, sounds, touches that have become distant memories.

Some people, however, depart from the home nest to rarely look back, perhaps because of frustration, broken relationships, hurtful experiences they would rather not face again. But life has a way of calling us back ‘home’ from time to time, such as family weddings or deaths. What happens when homecoming becomes a dreaded mission?

Perhaps we have all experienced the uncertainty expressed by the phrase, “you can’t go home again.” Meaning, things reshape, people change, YOU change—it won’t be the same when you return. Dynamics are different and homecoming sometimes morphs into a time of painful adjustment.

I have experienced both sides—the excitement of reuniting with loved ones and revisiting places where wonderful memories were made, as well as the apprehension of possible rejection or conflict upon arrival. Will my family and friends notice the changes in me? Will they welcome me or fuss at me? Will they like the real me? Can we relax with each other?

I think of a well-known story of a similar situation, about an estranged father and son. The son used all of his inheritance money to travel and party, and ended up serving pig slop to make ends meet. He finally decided to go home, uncertain of how he would be embraced. On the way, he planned his speech to his parents.

While the son was a long way off, his dad saw him, because he had been searching the horizon every single day, longing to see his son again. He called the family together and told them, “Quick! He’s coming home! Call the best caterers and order tons of his favorite foods! Freshen up his room, and put his favorite things in there so he will feel right at home. It doesn’t matter how he has changed, or what he has done—I love WHO he is, because he is my son. I’m thrilled that he is coming back home!”

The father (and mother) were willing to listen, but didn’t need to hear their son’s speech or explanations—they were so happy to have him at their table, where there had been an empty chair waiting all along.

Circumstances change. Parents change and children change. Perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs change. Mostly over time they refine and improve. Whether you are one who is returning with butterflies in your spirit, or one at home that is watching and waiting, keep hope alive! Don’t give up. Give second chances.

Trust that you CAN go ‘home again’, try again, and look forward to new beginnings and delightful surprises. You are loved, no matter what!

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