For the closing of the January class we were tasked with writing a reflection paper that integrated Scripture and our experienced with the course material and visitations.
Along the road the connection between the immigrant experience of leaving their homeland and the experience of exile in Scripture was made in my head, and the Psalm with the most cruel and brutal of language popped into my head: Psalm 137.
Here is a link to the text: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=226401918 (by the way, Oremus.org is a fantastic resource for Scripture and liturgy!).
The anguish and anger in that Psalm encapsulates the exile experience. Ripped from one's homeland and taken to another, the exile becomes an alien on foreign soil.
The immigrant experience has some similar elements. What drives an immigrant to leave the homeland? What forces at play push this person or family to leave what is familiar for a foreign place?
Political persecution. Economic collapse. Oppression. Starvation. Opportunities denied at home.
There is something missing, something lacking in the homeland to push someone to leave behind what they know and seek something new. Even if it's a general feeling of "I don't belong here," the lack of a sense of belonging is pushing them out.
Idaho gives me the same feelings of being pushed out at times. It's hard not being of a particular conservative stripe (let along being a liberal!), not being of a handful of religious traditions, not being straight. It's made me capable of living as a minority. Being a minority can be powerful; I can be free to say what I'm thinking because those in power aren't going to share or listen. Being a minority can be disheartening in its limitations; those in power aren't going to share or listen.
Growing up in Idaho I always knew that my fate was going to lead me out of the state. I was not going to be satisfied staying there. I never developed pride in my state as a collective entity. I love its geography, of course. Mesa Falls and Craters of the Moon are extraordinarily beautiful, and looking up at Taylor Mountain in the mornings filled me with joy! But the entity of "Idaho" and "Idaho-ness" do not hold the same appeal for me.
Here in Texas, it astounds me how much people take pride in their state. They take pride in being Texan and having grown up here or moving here. They are living in their homeland.
Who doesn't want to have a place where they belong and feel at home? Other than in the Kingdom of God, what else can I proudly call my homeland?
Remembering that people around the world still desire that Heavenly Country where all are welcome and all are loved, let us pray for exiles and refugees, for immigrants and travelers, for the lonely and hungry. May God's Kingdom come soon! Amen.