We arrived back home from vacation on the one-year anniversary of our moving here to Ohio. It was strange to fly into the Dayton airport, a place I had only been twice before, and convince myself that I was now home. I've returned home to McCarran in Vegas at least fifty, maybe one hundred times, in my life. LAX or John Wayne a few dozen times. It is odd when home is not yet a familiar place.
Vacations make me homesick. The more places I have called home, the more homesick I get when I travel. This idea of life as a pilgrimage is foundational to me. The idea of being a "rebel pilgrim" is more than a title I've given this blog or my production company. It's my spiritual mandate: to be engrafted into the story of Israel and Christ as a wanderer/traveler/seeker. Part of being a pilgrim is being content with never having a home - at least not until the journey ends. The literal pilgrimage of my life has been simultaneously exhilarating and emotionally devastating. I desire to be grounded and yet I desire constant change and movement. Part of my soul never left Las Vegas. A smaller part stayed in California. Part was left here in Cincinnati from my college years, but when I returned I could not find it...because I had changed and returned home a different person.
And now nostalgia meets reality. Home is here. I would not go back, though sentimentality gets the best of me. Maybe there is time travel in the eternity we call Heaven. I'd give all my fortune (it's a lot, trust me) to have one more ping-pong match with Ernie, Doug and Lumpy in the second floor lounge at President's Hall in 1992. I'd love one more day with just Debbie and Cosmo (our cat) in our tiny first apartment in Las Vegas in 1995. One more early Sunday morning setting up for Canyon Ridge at Cimarron High School in 1996. Planning an early Apex service with Doug Citizen, Kristi Andrade and the gang in 1997. Waking up in the middle of the night at a time when I could hold Eli with just one hand and prepare a bottle with the other in 1999. A leisurely espresso with Kevin Rains in Quebec City in 2001. Just one more warm summer night in 2002 in the backyard of our first house on Tame Place. One more hour to read Nouwen or Willard or Hauerwas or Yoder for the very first time at the Starbucks at Lake Mead and Rainbow. And how I long for just one more performance at Tony n' Tina's Wedding circa 2005. To be Michael Just or Barry Wheeler for just two hours again. To step on stage and teach my friends at Lifelines one more time in Costa Mesa in 2006. To walk down Hollywood Boulevard with my headshot and resume in hand, muttering the lines of my upcoming audition and carefully not stepping on anyone's star out of respect for the auditions they endured decades before me. To slate my name and agency and nail one more reading would be a taste of heaven. But those days are over - all of those days. And I couldn't pick any one of those days that I liked more than the others. They are my pilgrimage. I loved them. I miss them.
And though I can't always feel it in the moment, I trust that a few years from now I will miss the summer of 2008 - the trip to Disney World with two boys who will still hold my hand and aren't too grown up to cry if they get hurt. Someday soon I'll wax nostalgic over my first year at The Vineyard: diving headfirst back into vocational ministry, being loved and accepted by a wonderful church, forging the foundation of what will be life-long friendships. Someday this very moment will be a romantic memory in the light of a future reality.
I'm a sentimental guy. Hauerwas says that sentimentality is the most dangerous enemy of the gospel. I've never fully understood his point, but part if it involves the easy choice we all make to live in the past as the future spontaneously unfolds all around us. As I manage through a strange bout of melancholy after a wonderful vacation, I am encouraged to see that my life has been so full of joy that my only sadness comes from remembering how good my life has been until now.