Passion Project Short Story
As a young child, I never really felt that I belonged. I listened to the radio programs like One Man’s Family and I realized my life didn’t compare in any way to the dramatizations that were portrayed via the air waves or even our neighbors. Yet I preferred to visit the neighbor’s homes to our rental home, even though I was part of a family and not an orphan. So what circumstances created my sense of not belonging?
My childhood started out in the early 1930’s with a mother, father and the child, me, all living together, during the end throes of the Great American Depression. We were family; we called the house where we lived our home, though it seemed like we were just three different human beings sharing space. And a dark shroud hung over us.
The darkness a presence, a lure for my Daddy, possessed an odd name: The Bottle. At least that’s what I heard my Mommy call this dark invader, when my Daddy came home in drunken stupors.
By the time I reached age five my parents were separated, and I called a house at 786 May Street, Akron, Ohio, home: the first address I memorized and never forgot. My parent’s separation resulted in me moving to this new home without my parents, and I became a ward of Family and Children’s Service. It was really a foster home, in a decent neighborhood, not an institution. The middle-aged matron cared lovingly for us children, who were now a family of unrelated people, but all of us kids really wanted to live somewhere else. We all knew this wasn’t the way other kids lived, who had a mom, dad, siblings, and relatives as a part of their family life.
In the five years that I lived there I wasn’t exactly unhappy, never a pouter or a pity-me kid, but I held a yearning inside me to be like the other kids at school whose parents came to school programs. We “fosters” were all basically in the same emotional boat. Foster home living requires lots of regimentation. Yet there was an aspect of living with this patchwork family that I loved: teamwork. I learned quickly to enjoy the work ethics that became an instant part of our family team. Best of all, we went to church services and learned about Jesus, something I’d never experienced before I moved in with this makeshift family. At church, happiness prevailed, and I was presented a document called a passport to heaven with a picture of me and one of Jesus to verify my official travel status. Thus, an understanding of home here on earth and a better one in heaven began to evolve for me.
Then at age 10, my mother took me to live with her again. One room became our home, and though nothing was ever explained to me about any of this uprooting, I knew this was not my real home either, just another temporary place. Many temporary places followed. I so wanted, yearned for a permanent place to call home. But I trusted: home awaited me!
By age 12, I set myself upon a search for God after discovering Bible words that has changed life for many people, “And we know that all things work together for good” from Romans 8:28. I learned that Jesus was born as a baby and died as a man upon a cross, and that He lives in heaven waiting for me to be there someday to live in eternal bliss. However, I really didn’t know the whys and wherefores—and I’d never yet heard of the Holy Spirit and His role of working upon the heart. I didn’t yet now that it was the sins of the world, including my own sins, that caused His death or that He is coming to take me there Himself. I just figured that I’d probably need to die to be there with Him because that’s really the only time I ever heard anyone speak much about heaven, when there was a death, when the dead person would fly away to heaven. And then what? I soon realized that I didn’t know anything about heaven, except that it was a place without tears. I liked that idea a lot. Many questions filled my mental quiver. I pondered often about heaven, I needed answers.
My six-year search finally led me to Bible studies six years later at age 18, recommended to me by my boyfriend. Before then, none of the many churches I visited with friends ever offered them to me; catechism classes and rituals, yes, but not in-depth study of God’s Holy Word itself. However, my digging eventually led me to open a treasure chest filled with answers in the Bible for me, to understand why Jesus came to this earth and why He was willing to die for me—and for every human who ever lived for that matter. This place called heaven began to woo me daily, and I felt convinced more than ever that one day that a real home awaited me there. And I understood the rest of Romans 8:28, “to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His promise.”
By this time the fellow who told me that Bible studies would be the key to unlock my questions about God, asked me to marry him. We did marry and established our marriage with a plan of home and family, not only on this earth but in heaven, and in the earth made new. With an eternal home in sight, I learned that home is a true promise offered by God. The idea of home is God’s idea not only for an earthly lifetime, but for eternity. I also learned that home is not only a husband, wife and children (or maybe no children), but it means the entire family of God which incorporates the many others on this earth—and one day home will include all the redeemed of the earth.
However, in the interim, I’d found home on earth, too: a real family. Home was now a part of my life and I found comfort in the words that the preacher said when he married us, “You are establishing a home to go to heaven in.” When we got married, we didn’t realize that we’d live in many abodes we called home, while preparing for our eternal home. Yet, we endeavored that each home say “welcome” to the others in our life. And there were times when others lived with us. Some who were searching for home as I once did. Those encounters resulted in all of us growing in a knowledge and love of Jesus. Like the blooming of a plant from seed to flower, it became clear to me that all these “home experiences” were part of a fertile garden in which my faith grew.
For me, home is where the heart is, and where love is, there is God, for The Word tells us that God is love. That statement is more than lovely words. It reveals my journey with Jesus, as I travel to my real home. In the book The Adventist Home, Ellen White writes that home should be a symbol of heaven. Now in my late 80s, I’m still learning what home is all about, as I watch my growing family tree here on earth, and look forward to the everlasting promised home, where my heart is--in heaven where belonging is the reward.
Betty Kossick was a contestant in the Short Story category of Passion Project.