There are places that I love: Zagreb, Kentucky, New Mexico. If I had to pick a place that I think is closest to heaven, it would be Istria or Jackson WY.
But for me, the word “home” always evokes central and north Texas. Dallas in particular, but really anything from Austin north to the Oklahoma state line. Which is funny; I didn’t live in Texas until college, and it didn’t really become home until we moved our family here in 1993.
One memory sticks out.
In 1993, we were living in SE New Mexico. We traveled to a town just north of Austin, where I interviewed to become their pastor. The interview hadn’t gone well, through no fault of my own; half of the church board ended up leaving town the weekend that I interviewed. The church was not well led.
On Sunday, there were thirty people in the service, in a sanctuary that would seat 120, and they sat in clusters as far away from each other as possible: 8 in the bottom-right corner, 9 in the upper-right corner, etc. A huge gulf between the clusters.
I didn’t pursue that church. They didn’t express any interest in talking with me further, which was fine with me.
(I went back and preached at that church a few years ago; there were eight people there. I’d be surprised if their doors are still open.)
Anyway: before we left on that trip, I had called a church in DeSoto, a suburb of Dallas, which was also looking for a pastor. I said, “As long as I’m going to be in the area, why don’t I drive back through DeSoto and talk to you there?” So the board in DeSoto agreed to meet with me.
I remember it like it was yesterday. We drove up I-35 from Austin to Dallas. As soon as we took the Beltline Rd exit, we knew that DeSoto was going to be home. It called to us. “This is the place,” we said to each other, before we’d seen the church or said one word to the leaders face-to-face.
And it WAS the place. We spent eight years there, and would’ve stayed eight more if I’d had any sense.
Here’s what is special about Texas.
We’ve lived a lot of places where the people who were established acted as the gatekeepers for who was accepted. In Georgia, in eastern Kentucky, in central California, “new people” were viewed with suspicion. The insiders were people who were born and grew up there.
In Dallas, everyone was from somewhere else. At least in the circles we traveled in, there wasn’t a group of “established people” sitting back, looking with suspicion at the new people.
My experience: in Texas, if you want to be there, Texas will embrace you. Texas will call you her own. If you want to be there, you’re IN.
There are two qualifications for being a Texan:
- You have to want to be a Texan.
- You have to agree that Texas is better than everywhere else. Which is easy, frankly, because Texas IS better than everywhere else.
(In Kentucky, I would laugh at the Ohio people who thought they were obnoxiously proud of their state. Please; I’m a Texan.)
In 1997 or so, we were traveling back to Dallas after seeing family in Albuquerque. I remember as we were driving, just west of Childress on TX 287, when we passed from the red, sandy soil of the Texas panhandle to the black clay of north and central Texas.
I remember how the dirt smelled. It smelled rich, full of life, full of promise. It smelled blessed.
It smelled like home.