dear hilary: the winds of homecoming

Dear Hilary,

I have to admit I’m scared. After a few years of living oceans away from my hometown, I am moving back to what I used to consider my home. The only problem? It doesn’t feel like home anymore. I’m worried that people will expect me to be the same as I was four years ago, but the truth is I’ve changed. I’ve drawn closer to God and I love how He has shaped me over the past few years, but I am afraid those I used to be close to will only see me as “not the same” as I used to be.

Hilary, how do I shake the fear of rejection and embrace this new season of my life?


Scared to Move On

Dear Scared to Move On,

When one of my dearest friends was on her way back from Italy last summer, I wrote in the journal I was keeping for her (a journal of thoughts to share with her, stories of my days, questions about her time in Italy and her joy and her journey) this quote from Rilke:

Oh, not to be separated,
shut off from the starry dimensions
by so thin a wall.

What is within us
if not intensified sky
traversed with birds

and deep
with winds of homecoming? – Rilke, Uncollected Poems

I want to give that to you here – that image of the winds of homecoming. I don’t really know how to make sense of it myself, if I’m honest, and I don’t know how to give it to you. Words are unwieldy gifts. But you have written so tenderly about your fear that Rilke, in his own tenderness, seems to be the necessary reply.

My shortest answer to your question about whether people will see you as changed or simply “not the same” – whether they will embrace who you are becoming or mourn who you are no longer? You cannot control what people make of the changes. 

Some people will be overwhelmed by the new picture of you that they see. Some of them will take it completely in stride. The human heart can react in a thousand ways to the same situation and there is just no telling, not for one moment, what a given person will do or say in response to what they see. I wish I could offer you more control – but the truth is, the fear you harbor is about a thing that you cannot control no matter how or when you come home, no matter what you write about it, think about it, process out loud or silently about it.

The fear is not bad, in and of itself, but it does not have a solution that has anything to do with other people. You have to mud wrestle this fear on your own. You have to slide tackle it. Rilke can help us, here. You talk about being away from home as having changed you, going from what you were to what you are now, going from one thing to another, as if you have lost the first person along the way. But I think we are expanded – I think that’s what Rilke wanted to show us. We are intensified sky traversed with birds. We are deeper for having the winds of homecoming in our bones and our bodies. We are among the widening expanses.

Travel, being away from the familiar, expands us. I don’t think you have lost the person that your friends and family from home would have recognized. I think, rather, that she is deepened and shaped by your having been away. You have not lost her; she is simply revealing new dimensions and spaces.

So you have to wrestle with this fear that you have become someone people cannot recognize, that your self has changed so profoundly that others will not love and cherish it. For I think that the people in your life who love and cherish you will love and cherish how the winds of homecoming and the winds of departure and the winds of being away have shaped you. I think you must lead the way in this: love and cherish who you have begun to become. Love and cherish and beam out to us that you have begun to transform, and that though it is filled with beginning and uncertainty and all the rest, though you are slide tackling your fears about it, you believe it is beautiful.

Dear heart, believe the winds of homecoming are beautiful in you.

Everything follows from that.



One thought on “dear hilary: the winds of homecoming

  1. Oh Hilary, I’m not in Scared to Move On’s situation at all, but still your advice to her speaks to similar fears of mine. Thank you. I’m keeping these words close to my heart for the days to come.

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