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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: At Home in the World

Looking Back

Friday August 14

Looking Back: At Home in the World

"We shall have missed the greatest blessing of our holiday if in the beauties of earth and sky we fail to recognise a Spirit that through these beauties speaks to us" - the editorial from Life and Work of August 1935 urges readers to connect with God through nature.

1930s photograph depicting Loch Nevis from North Morar

AUGUST! Many a town-dweller will be in the country this month, seeking not only health of body but rest and refreshment of spirit.

After the grey streets and constant clamour of the city, the countryside brings peace to the mind. There is a feeling of relief in passing from the artificial to the natural, from the man-made world to the world of God’s creating. Mountain and river and sea, sunshine and sunset and twilight, all the beauties of earth that were tending to become mere memories, bring with them a sense of home-coming. This is the world into which we were born, the world in which we are at home.

There is no more kindly welcome than “Please make yourself at home.” Behind it lies the sense of what the true home means – the place where the strain of life is relaxed and where formality and convention give place to naturalness and ease, the place of slippers and a warm fireside and companions who know that one is fond of them without needing to be told. Only the far-travelled, perhaps, realise to the full the meaning of home – the restfulness after years abroad of hearing the mother-tongue around one, and the sense of safety and peace in the familiar circle.

There is much of this same sense of homecoming when we return to the countryside, especially to old, loved haunts. We may have been feeling the world a hostile place in which we are unwelcome aliens. We may have been feeling lonely and strained and even a little afraid. And it is little help if we have to admit that it is something in ourselves that has put us out of harmony with life; just as it is little comfort in misfortune to be told “You have only yourself to blame.”

But nature in her benign mood has a wonderful power to soothe and heal. She asks no questions and she does not blame. The burn that babbles on its way does not pause to criticise or condemn. The mountain that draws one’s eyes up to is heights is above all pettiness and all resentment. No, nature simply takes us, her children, to herself. With her, we are at home.

But there is something deeper still. We are not mere children of nature, but children of the spirit. We shall have missed the greatest blessing of our holiday if in the beauties of earth and sky we fail to recognise a Spirit that through these beauties speaks to us, a Spirit akin to that within ourselves which delights in them, akin yet infinitely greater. Only in fellowship with that great Spirit can we truly feel at home.

There is a very significant passage in Man in Search of a Soul, by Jung, the famous psycho-therapeutist:

“I should like to draw attention to the following facts. During the past thirty years people from all civilised countries of the earth have consulted me. Among all my patients in the second half of life, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”

One can understand this readily. In a world without God the human spirit would be a homeless wanderer. The great, empty eye-socket of Jean Paul Richter’s nightmare can never be a substitute for the loving eye of a Divine Father. The thought of a vast, uninhabited infinity of space, in which man’s cry could find no answer but its own echo, may well crush the spirit that is feeling timorous and alone. But for those to whom the beauties of the earth are as the garment of God and who, like Coleridge, hear in its music the accents of His voice, the world is no longer an alien land.

And if that voice is not only heard in thunder and bird-song and the whisper of waves on the shore, but has become articulate in the words of Jesus Christ, than a man knows that here in God’s world he is in truth “at home.”

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