Last year, I was sprawled on my bed, enjoying a day of rest after some long days of teaching. “Gilmore Girls” was my latest TV obsession; it was witty and comforting, with just enough drama, and, of course, that alluring small-town feel. I watched Rory and Lorelai chatting in their living room, drinking their coffee as the morning sun scattered through the window curtains. It conveyed such a perfect image of home. Comfort. Routine. Belonging. And my heart twinged unexpectedly. I thought: Why don’t I ever feel that I have that?
Despite growing up in a small town with a committed community and devoted parents, I have always felt a little unmoored — imagining that it was in my more innocent past or my more exciting future that I was, or would be, fully at home. I’ve noticed the feeling grow over the last few years as my husband and I have moved several times. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way; even Rory and Lorelai have their struggles with belonging, and they certainly aren’t perpetually content.
A true home, my heart tells me, doesn’t go away; we are made for a place where love and relationship are infinite. Yet all around me, I encounter transience — new friends end up moving away before we can get close; coworkers (and I) switch jobs, and the people who I encountered daily are suddenly gone; each year post-graduation my college friends and I are a little less good at keeping in touch. What are we, especially as Christians, to do with this instability? Someday we’ll be united with Christ and all will be resolved, but here and now, we are often lonely and uncertain. Do we simply accept this and offer up our suffering? I think there is a little more we can do, and surprisingly, a lot we can learn about feeling at home from Rory and Lorelai Gilmore.
Start with the sacraments
When I first sat down to puzzle out these feelings, I acknowledged that my desire for belonging comes from my need to be in communion with God. I am created for total union with him, so of course, anything less than that leaves me unsatisfied. The initial step towards home, then, has to be the sacraments. That is exactly what they are there for: to bring us, truly and physically, into our first home, God’s presence. Sitting with Jesus in adoration, touching him in the Eucharist, and hearing his words of reconciliation in confession quiet our hearts and satisfy those needs. It is perhaps not unlike the way Rory returns home to her mother, again and again, no matter what stage of life she’s in. There, she is recharged through connection with the one who knows her best. With movie nights and junk-food binges, she is reoriented to where she belongs and by whom she is loved, and it is from her mother’s home that she goes back out into the world once again.
To take a tip from Rory then, those times when I feel most unmoored I should be participating in the sacraments as often as I can. When I do, I always feel more whole, and I also feel more confident about going out and seeking home in other ways, too.
Embrace your neighbors
I am the queen of excuses when it comes to reaching out to acquaintances or attending potentially awkward social functions. But over the years, this reluctance has cost me a fuller community of local friends. We all need physical community — to look people in the eye, to share meals, to sit in awkward silences together. We can’t expect all our neighbors, fellow parishioners, and coworkers to understand us on every level, but our daily interactions are the ones that shape us. Rory and Lorelai’s friends in Stars Hollow are not all people they have much in common with. Some are so outrageous their friendship calls the word “sanctifying” to mind.
But Babette, Miss Patty, Kirk, even Taylor, make up a vibrant community that supports, comforts, celebrates, and lives alongside them. They may not always get along, but they are in it together.
Like the Gilmores, when I do open up and reach out to my neighbors, I almost always find more in common and more to love about people than I expected to. I leave these interactions feeling, sometimes awkward, yes, (though hopefully not Kirk-level awkward) but also a little more known and a little more at home. I have created a touchpoint in my immediate community — something to return to.
Use technology intentionally
At the same time, friends who understand you deeply are immensely important. We have amazing resources for connecting with people who aren’t physically here, but it is easy to use those resources half-heartedly. Occasional texts or Instagram profile perusals, I’ve learned the hard way, don’t build true relationships. Setting up regular phone or video calls is great for consistent connection; I’ve also discovered that calling spontaneously has its own charm and is actually easier to maintain. Finding something to do together from far away is even better. A friend and I once read Blessed is She’s “Misericordia” study together and discussed it regularly on the phone. These long-term, soulmate friends — in Anne of Green Gables’ words, our “bosom friends” — are the Lane to our Rory: the one who you call when you’re down, who counsels you in difficult moments, and who makes you laugh like no one else (the fall on the floor kind of laugh).
I do whatever I can to foster and return that love, even from afar, because these friends help me to know who I am in the world.
Let your longing guide you
In the final episode of “Gilmore Girls,” Rory gets a sudden job offer and has to leave her childhood home on just a few days’ notice. The town rallies to throw her a goodbye party. There is such joy as they celebrate, give speeches, cry, hug, and savor being together like this for the last time. Rory has been loved well by this town, and she sees that most clearly when she is about to lose it. It is a painful moment, but also one of gratitude and fullness.
I have a few similarly shiny memories that I hold onto; those moments when my little time-bound world touched the infinite. The strongest of these is from our wedding, my husband and I kneeling at the altar after receiving the Eucharist. As we gazed up at the body of Jesus on the cross, the voices of all our dearest family and friends rose behind us, singing “Be Thou My Vision.”
That moment ended, of course. And shortly after, we moved to the other side of the country from almost all the people in that church. But it comes to mind often, and it reminds me of the deepest realities of our faith — that the love and belonging we share with those people does not truly end.
Moments like these inspire me to live in hope. I create finite communities here, not because it is the best I am going to get, but because it gives me a taste of how much more is yet to come. When I find myself struggling to feel at home in the world, that memory compels me to go out — to offer some piece of that hope to those I encounter, to find ways to connect with the people I love, near or far, and to reach out to those around me whom I don’t yet know enough to love.