As we begin 2017, are you in a place you never imagined you’d be?
“Hey, Todd. It’s Andy. I’m driving from Austin to San Diego for Christmas. I don’t know if you are able to pull this off but I’m wondering, could you make the trip?”
Andy Neillie is one of those rare inner circle friends. Over a period of 20 years, our lives continue to intersect at points of geography, business and ministry. Always connected by a strong cord of friendship.
Of course I can make it work. A two-day road trip at the end of the year to catch up on life, talk potential writing projects, debrief on the year that was and dream about the year that is to come.
We rolled through the rain in his Jeep Grand Cherokee across New Mexico stopping only for gas, stretch breaks and the New Mexico State Policeman who informed me I was doing 71 in a 45.
Sometimes I go faster than I should and I know it. This time I didn’t know it.
He told me to slow down and be safe. An undeserved gift. Merry Christmas to me from the NMSP.
After a delicious lunch of enchiladas, tacos, and carne asada at historic La Posta near Las Cruces we point the Jeep west on I-10. I know this road well. Nine years ago this highway took me away from my home in Phoenix into the unknown. There’s no map for starting life over from scratch. And while I’m going on a decade in the wind blown South Plains of Texas I’m still not convinced Lubbock is ever on anyone’s list of places to live, even for those who live here. Yet here we all are.
I remember the trip like it was yesterday. Driving an eastbound U-Haul truck. Just me, my dog, and no certain future.
Now I’m driving the road that took me away.
Going west instead of east.
Memories in reverse.
By 8 PM it’s dark in the Valley of the Sun. Backlit signs highlight familiar places. The buildings, restaurants and streets are still here, the scenes of many of my best memories. My heart remembers this as home. My head reminds me I’m just passing through.
Over dinner, Andy and I ponder the questions.
Can you ever go home again?
Or can you never go home again?
I’ll always have a fondness for Phoenix. 14 years is a long time. I loved it here. A big chunk of my heart and soul are still here.
“Would you come back?”, Andy queried.
“I don’t know. I want to say yes. I was really happy. Then again, I wonder…Is home a place? Or is it a season of life with certain people? If I moved back, the scenery would be the same. The Superstition Mountains and the palm trees are still here. But the people I love here? Time has passed. We’re at a different stage of life. I still love them deeply. I hope they still love me. Yet I’m afraid I’d be expecting it to be like I remember it. But it wouldn’t be.”
Greek philosopher Hericlitus said, “No man steps into the same river twice.” Because when he comes back to the river, he is a man grown and changed. And the water that was there has flowed on.
In that light, you can never go home again.
Says Andy, “Last week I was in Minneapolis presenting a training seminar for Cummins. Part of the program required their people to do an impromptu 2-minute persuasive speech. One of the participants grew up in Romania. He chose to speak on “why people should travel outside their country once a year”. Through his travels over the years he discovered America was the best place for opportunity. So much that he moved his family here.”
“The gentleman closed his speech by saying, “We tell and teach our children, “Home is not a place. Home is where you are.”
From Romania on the coast of the Black Sea to Minnesota.
From Phoenix to Lubbock.
In any or all of these places, home is where you are.
There is wisdom here. We can only be in one place at a time. If home is a place and we’re not in that place, we live absent and disconnected, pining for an experience that may never be replicated.
If home is where we are, we live present and connected, engaged with the unique experiences of where we find ourselves. Even if it’s someplace we never wanted or thought we’d be. Though I could have never imagined, there really is life here in the South Plains of Texas. A good life, rich with God’s blessings.
Because at the end of the road that takes us away, we discover God is already there.
Which is to say the road that takes you away is the road that takes you home.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Todd A. Thompson – toddthompson.net