“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”
I spent four years of my life living in New York City and a little over two living in California, and I am proud to say that I have lived every other year of my life in Texas. Texans are known for their arrogance about our home state, and this reputation isn’t untrue. In fact, Texas oil man John Gunther is credited as saying, “If a man’s from Texas, he’ll tell you. If not, why embarrass him by asking.” As much as there is to love about the beauty of my ancestral land, its people, and its cultures, those unlucky souls not from here—especially those who live on the other two coasts—are baffled by such adoration. I’ve lost track of the number of times I was congratulated for “getting out” during my years away… as if instead of being my home, Texas were a hostage situation.
Oh, I understood all too well where they were coming from. Texas is known for its hostility to people of color, LGBT people, and women. I am a member of each of these groups. What kind of masochist would willingly and enthusiastically go back?
While to some, “home” may be where one hangs their hat, I believe that for most of us, home is where we feel most connected to what nourishes our soul. There’s so much about Texas that I despise and would love to change, but the same could be said of other places and spaces that feel like “home,” such as my alma mater, my faith communities, the cultural groups I am a member of, my family of origin, etc.
We humans have both a natural desire and a spiritual need to feel connected and to grow roots, even if those roots aren't necessarily tied to a geographic place. We need to feel part of a tribe. It’s no coincidence that “family” and “familiar” have the same root. With any home or community, there comes a time when its flaws can no longer be ignored. In fact, this disillusion is part of growing up. Some will cut and run, seeking greener pastures. (Do we not hear talk of moving to Canada from the losing party after every election?) But soon enough, the vibrant colors of newness fade, and the complex realities of the new home emerge alongside its original novelty and beauty.
The trick to remaining in love and connected with “home” becomes the same trick as remaining in love with any person, including (and maybe especially) ourselves: we find ways to actively engage with what makes us proud, remain open to surprises, and work toward fixing that which disappoints us.
That which brings lasting connection, bring me joy in each day’s homecomings. Challenge me to use my love, to ready my home for the arrival of new guests, and to make it cozier for those of us already here. May it be so. Amen.