"Going Home by Another Way" first appeared in the Gallup Independent's "Spiritual Perspectives" on January 18. It is reprinted here with permission.
In Denmark, January 6 is called (in Danish, of course) Holy Three Kings Day. The kings are guys from the Christmas story—the ones we call the "wise men." We don't know if there were three or if they were kings or how holy they were, but they were either very good at saving money, or they were rich, based on the gifts they brought. The day is known in many places as Epiphany.
In 2020, Epiphany fell on a Monday, so in many churches, it was celebrated on January 5th. The highlight of the celebration for me this year was when Bill came down from the choir and sang the James Taylor song, "Home by Another Way" In the biblical story and in Taylor's song, an angel tells the Wise Ones in a dream not to go back the way they came, because King Herod wants to use them for his evil purposes. They are to go "home by another way."
I wonder what might've happened to the Wise Ones when they went home by another way. Maybe it was a harder route. After all, you'd think that, being wise, they would've scoped out the best route for following the star to the baby who would be king. But maybe another way offered some surprises—a passage through beautiful rock formations, a meeting with a wise woman who offered comforting hospitality after their encounter with scary Herod. In the song, they're urged to "Keep a weather eye to the chart on high;" after all, they were star-gazers. Maybe going home by another way showed them the heavens from a different perspective, making plain a new discovery. Perhaps they came to a sweet little village that looked a lot like Bethlehem but wasn't. Yet it caused them to marvel again about all they'd seen in the baby's eyes. Maybe because the journey took longer, they told each other more and better stories, getting to know each other more deeply. Often there are benefits to going home by another way.
When Bill sang "Home by Another Way," I was deeply moved. I also laughed because he delivered the song's humor along with its more serious message. I didn't think of a physical journey or a physical home, but of my inner journey—my spiritual journey. This journey started out in a way that seemed straightforward. My spiritual home and physical home were one and the same—my family home and church home. And then Diyin took me onto a different path, when my lesbian sexuality meant there would be no place for me in the only spiritual home I knew, if I were to be true to how the Creator made me. But the Holy One was full of grace for me. The song says, "You have to figure that God's saying play the odds/And go home by another way." When I went by another way, I met people I would never have met, if I had stayed in my little world that seemed so safe at first. I learned and grew from other traditions, and I still learn from them today. What an immeasurable gift that was. At the same time, I was always looking for a place I could call home. I'm beginning to understand that spiritual home may not be a physical place, like the church I now attend or the apartment I live in. In fact, the saying, "Home is where the heart is," may be accurate, albeit a cliché.
A few days after Holy Three Kings Day, I shared "Home By Another Way," with my brother Rick. I told him what it had meant to me. He said, "I wonder what going home by another way would mean for me." Almost immediately he came up with an answer. "I guess it would be becoming affirming. And speaking out about it." He meant that he had become an advocate for fully including LGBTQ people in the Church. Rick was not always supportive of LGBTQ people's place in the Church, but when the Holy One sent him home by another way, he wasn't just quietly supportive; he took risks. He wrote an article in his denomination's magazine, started a book study group, spoke out whenever he had the chance, and wore a rainbow ribbon to church. I'm not sure just what benefits another way home has brought to him, though I hope it has blessed him richly. It has done something very important for me: it has given me a safe and joyful place within my family, where there are still sharp divisions about whether or not I belong in the Church. I'm grateful that Rick listened when the Holy One told him to "play the odds" and go "home by another way."