In-Formation: Longing for Home

The spiritual life arises out of a deep longing. Long ago, David described his longing in these words, “my God, you are the One I seek. My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you” (Psalm 63:1).  Made by God, we long for God.  Spiritual formation is our acknowledgement of this longing and our desire to satisfy it.

In the 23rd Psalm, David used the imagery of a home to describe his confidence in the culmination of his longing “I will dwell in your house, YHWH, for days without end” (23:6).  Jesus spoke of the Father’s house (John 14:2), and Paul took us  beyond earthly time to write that we have “a house built by God, an everlasting home in the heavens, not made by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Henri Nouwen has written extensively on the idea of the spiritual life using the metaphor of home.  I suspect he will be most remembered for his book, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son.’ [1]  The subtitle is, ‘A Story of Homecoming.’  And after he died, friends took some of his notes about homecoming and published them under the title, ‘Home Tonight.’ [2]

Frederick Buechner has likewise written about his spiritual journey in multiple volumes, one of which is entitled, ‘A Longing for Home.’ [3].  He defines the spirituality of home as “a place where you feel you belong and which in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.” [4]

Buechner’s use of home to weave the threads of belonging, ultimacy, and realism captures the essence I hope to achieve in this series.  We all live with some soul-sense of being “away from home,” and that awareness creates our hunger for God, our hunger for a life summed up in the words of Julian of Norwich, ““All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  We are on our way home.


[1] Henri Nouwen, ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming’ (Doubleday, 1992).

[2] Henri Nouwen, ‘Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son’ (Doubleday, 2009).

[3] Frederick Buechner, ‘A Longing for Home’ (HarperSanFrancisco, 1996).

[4] Ibid., 7.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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