This summer marks the 20th anniversary of my coming to Wisconsin. It doesn’t seem like all that many years ago that my then-husband followed a job and all things greener back to the land of his birth., but Kay was born in Green Bay and she turns 20 this fall.
In those 20 years, I’ve grown up, grown stronger. I’ve shed what could not be mended, lived through situations I’d always hoped to avoid, and followed the Holy in ways I never dreamed I would. Through this, I’ve fallen in love with about a thousand treasured people, and even taken up the violin. (It’s okay to laugh at that last one.)
I was thinking about this as I drove to my appointment with my spiritual director yesterday. It took a long time for Wisconsin to feel like a place I’d want to stay. I came here out of duty, and after the divorce, my heart kept pointing west. When I moved to New Mexico after college, I found I loved the high mountain desert and I would have stayed indefinitely.
In the years after leaving the Southwest, nothing felt like home. Some places were fine, but they didn’t connect with me. They weren’t home. Neither were the Wisconsin places I’d lived in … until about four years ago. I was driving to one of the United Methodist Camps in the south central part of the state for a workshop. And as I drove, I realized that, at long last, I was home.
The feeling of "home" was a long time coming. First, there were dashed hopes, friendships betrayed, tears shed, lessons learned – many painful moments. Still, I'm in a good place now, and I'm grateful.
I think of the Exodus story in the Hebrew Bible. An ethnos of the Ancient Middle East cried out in their captivity. Through God’s grace they were led to freedom and shaped into a people. Were they grateful after their years in the Wilderness?
The Exodus story has been claimed by African Americans, and maybe other peoples, who find in it a reflection of their own experience. Yet I believe it can also be a personal story, as long we don’t claim that’s all it is.
It’s my story. Maybe it’s yours. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a situation you can’t fix or can’t seem to escape. Knowing that I’m beloved of G-d is what gave me the courage finally to make changes that were long overdue.
Down deep, in your bones, do you believe that you are beloved of G-d? (You are.) Some women and men find other catalysts or motivations that lead them to become what they were made to be. Of course. But for me it was that love.
“If G-d loves me, I’m worth being –– “
How would you finish that sentence?
Who is like you among the gods, Lord?
Who is like you, foremost in holiness,
worthy of highest praise, doing awesome deeds? Exodus 15:11