I have heard this opening remark so often that I would usually dismiss it as a church cliche. However, the words strike a different chord with me today.
If not for the man sitting beside me in the pew, I would have no reason to be in rural Shelby County on a Sunday.
Although Zac has lived in Walker County for most of his adult life, it is not the place that he calls home. His heart remains here in Vincent, his boyhood stomping ground.
Zac’s commentary on Vincent is very one-sided. Any unpleasantness about the town or the past that ties him to it has been virtually erased from his memory.
Since my opinion of Vincent until now has been based solely on Zac’s stories, I have come to think of it as an almost fictional place, like Neverland.
Zac has wanted to bring me here as long as we have been together, but he steered clear for more than a decade in order to sort out some unresolved issues. Some things only heal with time.
The time for Zac’s homecoming finally arrived last year, just after the Fourth of July.
We have made several more trips since then to visit his dad and to worship with him at Vincent First United Methodist Church, where our message this morning is on distractions.
At some point in the sermon, I realize that I rarely feel distracted while we are in Vincent.
I still check my phone out of habit, but I try to put it away as soon as I catch myself doing it. Whatever is waiting for me in the next county will find me soon enough once we return.
If I am distracted, it is because I have removed most of myself from the experience so that I can live vicariously through Zac.
He always seems to think of another part of town that he hasn’t shown Wyatt and I yet.
So many of his stories begin with “I remember when this was...” that it sounds like the man was there when the charter was approved in the late 1880s.
In truth, there isn’t much to look at in Vincent. It’s charming to a visitor like myself, certainly, but I don’t see a lot that would lead most kids to hang around after graduation.
My husband is the exception. Now that I have walked its streets myself, I see how much of his hometown that Zac has carried with him all of these years.
His work ethic, his love of nature, his appreciation for the simple things in life — it all started here.
Every time we are in Vincent, I find myself wondering how I would react if our roles were reversed. If we were raising Wyatt somewhere else, would I want to come back to Cordova and drive through the streets telling stories from my childhood?
The conclusion I seem to be coming to lately is that hometowns are funny things. They are at once broken and beautiful.
We can love them, leave them or try to change them, but there’s no sense in trying to deny that they are part of us.
As we walk out of the church after the service ends, I steal a glance at Zac and notice how happy and relaxed he seems. Knowing that you belong somewhere, whether it’s your official zip code or not, does that to a person.