Knowing the place (again) for the first time

A number of these daily Pilgrimage devotionals have reminded me of these words from TS Elliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

– from “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets

I first encountered this poem in my early 20s and its truth has only deepened.  I’ve experienced this both geographically and in my faith journey.

Born and raised in Bellefontaine, Ohio, I needed some distance for college and headed out to Kansas.  I remember the distinct thought that I wouldn’t be living in Ohio ever again.  After a semester in Cairo, Egypt, and periods of living in Atlanta, Topeka (Kansas), St. Louis, and Northern Indiana (seminary), my first pastorate landed me back in the southwest corner of the state at Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship.  Columbus landed us right in the middle.

I had an intense relationship with the Bible and Christian faith in high school and my first two years of college, then moved swiftly into a time of deconstruction, questioning, and exploring beyond previous boundaries.  It was a bit scary, but also exhilarating, freeing, and humbling.  This letting go ultimately led to reembracing a Christian faith centered on love and justice.  I guess one could say pastoring has me right in the middle of that too.

I like the imagery of arriving where we started and knowing the place for the first time.  Places change, but it’s my own changing that makes this poetry ring true.  Hopefully, I continue to change toward gratitude, humility, appreciation, and wonder at the gift of being alive.  I wonder how else I’ll arrive back and see as if for the first time.