Read the whole series on home here.
When I have been home
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” – Audre Lorde
How do I know when I have been home? In the words of Whitney Houston, “How will I know?”(If you can read that question and not do a little dance…I commend you.) Let me not stray too far. I must start where I am. A Black man living in a certain place and at a certain time. I must be even more specific than that if I am to write on the concept of home, I am a relatively poor, chronically pained, Christian, Black man. All of these words matter to me. For me, “home” isn’t a concept that can be overly theorized about, talked about, picked through, as one endeavors to treat it as something cold and lifeless. Through all of my life’s chaos, I have learned that in order to understand this thing that most people talk about, but few people cultivate, I must start with me. I did not grow up in a loving home environment that made me feel safe, nurtured, and free. And so, I know that being able to define myself, for myself…being at peace with myself is the truest home I could ever possess. My father used to say that nobody can lock up your mind. I didn’t understand that then dad, but I do now. Friends come and they go. Family can too. What remains is me. The boy I was and the man I am still becoming.
When I think of home
I think of a place where there’s love overflowing
I wish I was home
I wish I was back there with the things I been knowing.
(as sung on the Wiz)
If you haven’t heard Diana Ross sing “Home” then I feel very bad for you. As a child, I remember hearing her singing, and acting in the Wiz. I remember the aching longing she poured into this song as she fervently desired to go back to a place where love was overflowing. Back in her home surrounded by family. She went on this journey through Oz only to realize the love and acceptance she needed was right back where she started. I think of this often, and I must say that the essence of this, how one feels when they are home is so magical to me. I have had glimpses of this throughout my life and they are almost indescribable.
In this way, “chosen family” has become so important to me. Those ones who you have come to love, and they have come to love you back. It is a beautiful work to behold. Watching love and safety spring up. When I was younger, a friend used to tell me often, “I love you on purpose.” This was such an odd and overwhelming sentiment. During these years, at war with myself, anxious, and dealing with compounded trauma someone loving me on purpose meant the world to me. How healing to hear that someone was intentionally loving on me. I hope you find people that can love you on purpose. No pretense. No gimmicks.
Could I relax my shoulders here? Could I divest from being a man who must have the whole world figured out? Could I simply be myself? Chosen family has helped me as I have come “home to myself,” as Dr. Thema Bryant likes to say often. When I am with these special ones, I laugh deeply. An open-mouthed laugh that signifies that I am safe here. You must know dear reader that I am overly shy. I always have been and probably always will. When I feel that I am home with my people, no matter the location, I laugh from the belly. I cry. For any reason I cry. I am not only shy, but I am sensitive. When I am at home, I take in the preciousness of people, and I cry.
Being accepted is the bare minimum. Being cherished is the aim.
By Robert Monson
If it matters to you,
well it matters to me.
Here in this home we’ve built together.
Blood, sweat, and tears are not
the foundation of this place.
Instead, the pure notes of crystalline laughter
and silence, and a love that will be famous for the ages.
They tuck us in at night,
and warm our bones.
Here in this house called Love.
Building a house where love can grow can take time. (I see you, Adele.) It can be heart wrenching and overwhelming. I am glad though for all the ways that I have known love. Have experienced a house of love. I feel it in the touch of people I love. In the smiles of my loves. In the poetry of Lucille Clifton. In myself when I awaken and listen to piano melodies early in the morning. I feel home when I am fully known, where my Black flesh is nurtured, and honored. I am a theologian. I am a scholar. I am a liberationist. I think certain things about myself, those who surround me, and the unfolding of this world. I think distinct things about the home for humanity both now and in the age to come. I hope as I live this short window of time called my life, that I am able to help people feel at home. I hope that I can erase “the other” and help people know that they are worth caring for. Now, I leave you with the portion of “Home” that still sticks with me. I can still hear Diana singing it:
If you’re listening God
Please don’t make it hard to know
For us to believe in the things that we see
Robert (he/him) is a runner, musician, and a Black theologian committed to softness, contemplation, and liberation for all. As a recent seminary graduate (with distinction), Robert studied in depth the intersection of Black Liberation Theology and womanist theology. Weaving together these two strands of liberation have been important work as well as other liberation based theologies. “How can we help facilitate community and provide answers to a hurting world that is reeling?” remains an important question in his work. While in school, Robert’s scholarly work was recognized and presented at various national conferences/outlets. Podcasting (two shows) and writing remain important aspects of his daily life as well as marathoning the latest Star Trek show(s).