It was five years ago that a friend called to ask if our family would be willing to leave Alabama and move to Texas to serve a church. The question registered a strange shock in me. I had honestly never thought of moving to Texas, just as many of us cannot conceive living in a foreign land. But I now know that many others in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas have shared a similar experience, making their way here from the likes of Oklahoma, France, Hawaii, Canada and California.
Still I wonder sometimes: how did I get here? In the song “Once in a Lifetime,” The Talking Heads ask this question. “You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack/and you may find yourself in another part of the world/and you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile/and you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife/and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
Sometimes the path is easily explained, but other times we can only sit back and marvel. We think how did I get so lucky? Or, why did I have to go through that? Or, how did my life end up this way? I could say to you I took a job but that would not explain the complex mix of choice, intuition, expectation and discernment that brought us to Texas.
The truth is that, in a way that is hard to explain, we felt led to come here. To be led suggests that something or someone is in front of you. Deep calls to deep with a choice: stay or go.
In his book Jayber Crow, poet, environmental activist and farmer Wendell Berry expresses these words through his main character: “If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line … but that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times … Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises…I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.”
Could it be that there is something or someone beyond us, beckoning us to step out into wide open spaces, to embrace a pilgrim’s life, to traverse boundaries, to follow without knowing what lies ahead, to discover the place that we would one day call home?