We’re in escrow for a house. Assuming the rest of the process goes smoothly, we’ll be closing in about a week. “Escrow.” “Closing.” These are words I never thought I’d hear myself saying. Buying a house has always been David’s dream. He owned the apartment where he lived in Los Angeles, and renting has been unsettling to him the last few years in Portland.
But me? Well, if I’m honest, I’ve never really minded being a renter.
I like that if something needs repairs in a place you’re renting, it’s not your problem. Most of all, though, I like the temporal nature of renting. The idea of homeownership has always sounded to me a little bit like shackles. There’s a sense of permanence to it that doesn’t gel with my personality. So why did I agree to invest all of our savings on a house? The answer is community. In Portland we’ve found a church and friends in whom I want to invest.
This wasn’t a decision I saw coming, and it wasn’t easy to make. I like Portland, but I’ll always feel a little bit foreign here. My accent will always be more conspicuous here. The annoying “Where are you from?” question will always be part of my life here. The only place where I’ve ever truly felt at home is New York City. I wasn’t born there, and my family doesn’t live there now, but it’s where I always felt I belong. My great-great-grandfather owned a house and business there; my great-grandfather grew up there; my grandfather received his medical training there; my father lived there as a child. This family history, combined with my own experience there has given the city a sense of roots.
New York is the only place where I’ve never felt like an outsider—where remarks about how I speak weren’t ubiquitous. (I can’t roll my Rs, so I sound funny even in my native Spanish.) I love that city, and when I’m there I feel like its spirit loves me. I traveled there a couple of weeks after our offer on the house was accepted, and I cried when I left. I know the city will always be there, and I’ll go back to visit as often as I can, but buying a house seals the deal—it finally makes my move permanent. And despite my genuine excitement about this new chapter in my and David’s lives, I felt grief. David feels similarly about leaving California.
At 38, I’ve spent most of my life keeping people at arm’s length. It’s telling that, other than my sisters, there was only one person at my wedding who had known me for more than four years. Truth is, I didn’t know I wanted community and deep friendships until I had them. Now, I have trouble imagining life without some of the people I have met in this town. Buying a house and putting down roots here is my way of saying to my church, my community, “I commit to you; I’m here to stay. Let’s build this part of the body of Christ together.”
Last year I wrote a blog post stating that, for many LGBTQ Christians, seeking a relationship would necessarily involve moving. What I’ve learned since is that finding church—a community of people committed to doing life together—sometimes requires it, too. But unlike committing to a relationship, committing to a community is a largely unilateral decision. Just because David and I have decided to settle here, it doesn’t mean our friends aren’t planning to move at some point down the line. That's a risk that scares me. And yet I think that, as is the case with marriage, commitment to community is worth it.
Our church’s website states that “Shaped by a sacred story, sharing at a common table, and animated by divine love, Pearl Church is a community rooted in Christianity. The essence of Christianity is a loving way of life in the world, here and now. Together, we embrace the work of cultivating rhythms that facilitate and nurture this loving way, as it is revealed in the life of Jesus.”
Pearl's dream, “that we imagine and desire, is the consummation of peace in a world integrated by love.” This truly can only happen when we cultivate rhythms together, as a community that is rooted, that shares a common table. A story that contains only one character is boring, and doesn’t show much growth. In order to be “shaped by a sacred story” we must allow others into it.
I don’t know if it’s the approach of middle age that has me bending the elbow—letting people get closer, and maybe even pulling them in a little. I don’t know if it’s marriage, and the realization that a couple cannot thrive without the support of loving friends. I think it’s probably a little bit of each, coupled with the transformative lessons God has taught me about church in the last couple of years. All I know for certain is that I’m happy. And I’m looking forward to life in our new home—to dinners, home groups, whisky nights and holidays with friends from whom I won’t walk away.
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