You Can't Go Home Again is a novel by Thomas Wolfe. It was published posthumously in 1940. The novel tells the story of George Webber, a beginning author, who writes a book that makes frequent references to his home town of Libya Hill. When the residents of Libya Hill read the book and see the egregious distortions Webber penned, they begin sending Webber death threats and menacing letters expressing their discontent with the novel, even though it is held in high regard in the rest of the country. Wolfe, as in many of his other novels, explores the themes of a changing America, including the stock market crash and the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time, which inhibits George from ever being able to go "home again".
The title comes from the finale of the novel when protagonist George Webber realizes, "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory. (Wikipedia)"
Today, I went to Sacrament Meeting with my wife. We have not been able to go much recently because of her cancer treatments, which has been OK with me as I've made good use of the time off to reassess my situation and what I want out of the church and my relationship to it.
Today, I was deeply impressed by the spirit during the meeting and especially during the sacrament. For me, it seems as a confirmation from God of the love he has for those who attend despite the differences of opinion, culture, and values that exist within the membership.
It's always a little awkward for me to meet some of the men who were part of the High Council when I was humiliated by their uninformed and stupid questions at the time I was excommunicated. For a few years they stumbled through greeting me on Sunday but it was very uncomfortable on both sides so we've come to a point where we generally just avoid each other. I sometimes wish I could go back now and explain my life to them with the more clear vision of hindsight. I think I would be more able to teach them the truth about homosexuality and be less intimated.
Even though I enjoyed sacrament meeting today, my church life will never be the same...I can't go home again. I won't ever again be considered as "the possible next Bishop" candidate. No one will ever hold me up as an example in Sunday School of the "righteous priesthood holder". Because I am so uniquely different I won't ever feel completely comfortable at church. Changes may ultimately occur within the church that would make me feel comfortable but I doubt it will occur in my lifetime.
For my part, I won't ever again have complete trust in church leaders, the deep commitment to fulfill every assignment, or faith in every lesson and concept taught. My faith in God is solid. He knows me. Without it being intentional on my part, I will always be skeptical of what is spoken and written and even without looking for them I will see ulterior motives and manipulation.
I'm OK with that and I believe God is as well. I don't want to go back, I want to go forward. Isn't that the Plan after all? Isn't wisdom born of experience one of the great accomplishments of life?
Nevertheless, I don't plan to abandon the church. I'm a cultural Mormon and it's so much a part of who I am that I don't think it would be possible to completely separate myself without significant cognitive dissonance. I love to feel the spirit and the love of the saints toward each other even if it's not toward me. I want to support my wife and children and their desire to attend church. I will participate on my own terms and in my own way.
It's true...you can't go home again...at least to home as you once perceived it. But we can and will return home to God, this time with our eyes wide open. Here's to the future, bring it on!