The summer between my junior and senior years at Baylor, I lived in Waco, even though I didn’t need to go to summer school, because I had a weekend pastorate at Pecan Grove Baptist Church, which sat on FM 107 between Oglesby and Mound. The church paid me enough to make my rent and do what I needed to do, so I played golf everyday with a group of guys who all agreed to take an early class and we spent our Texas summer afternoons walking the James Connally Municipal Golf Course.
I shot the best golf of my life during that summer because I was able to do something I never got to repeat: play the same course, day after day. Walking the same holes over and over again gave me reference points, which allowed me to learn from my game and make changes and improvements. I even broke eighty once or twice. I didn’t make any drastic changes as much as I paid attention, and walked the same road again and again.
Today after church I spoke to our Adult Forum, as they call it here, to basically tell my story. We are eleven days past our four month anniversary of arriving in Guilford and this was a chance for folks to get to know me a little better. To tell the story of my life is to talk a great deal about moving. As my brother Miller says, when someone asks where I’m from I have to answer with a paragraph, not a sentence. Instead of one course for my life, if you will, I have several places that feel like home. I feel connected to Africa—Zambia and Kenya, in particular—because that’s where I grew up. I feel connections to Baylor because of the friendships I made there, many of which remain vibrant, even though I don’t get there much. Fort Worth is home in its own way because of the youth group at University Baptist Church. Ginger and I call Boston our hometown because it’s where we grew up together. Durham has my heart because of the quality of friendship I have there. And now Guilford feels like the right place to be. I like it here. I feel good about being here, about staying here.
Yet it’s only been four months.
To feel welcomed can happen quickly; to belong takes time. To connect can feel immediate; to become friends takes months and years. You have to walk the course over and over, live through some stuff together, create rituals together. It can be rushed any more than they can make a fifteen year old whiskey in a week or two.
As I stand on the front end of our life here, I am overcome with gratitude for the home towns that still hold me, for the rituals and remembrances that surprise me from day to day and remind me of the tenacious tethers that keep holding on to me across miles and years—a song, a movie, a meal, a story, a cookie recipe—and those bonds are what give me hope to reach out again here, to start over, to take the time to belong here in Guilford as well.
And it does take time.