While living in Scottsdale, Ariz., I have found that people are fond of reminding one another of a unique cultural phenomenon: Everyone is from somewhere else.
True Arizona natives are hard to come by. Many people who live in the area are new family or retiree transplants seeking sunshine and opportunity or snowbirds who migrate back and forth between here and the Midwest, landing in Arizona from October to May. I have heard it said that more than a million people make their way into Scottsdale during these months. The city is also a relatively new place as far as cities go. There were only 2,000 people living here in the 1950s. Of course, 1951 saw the affordability of heat pump air-conditioners which helped the population climb considerably!
I spent some time this week on the official government website for Scottsdale reading about Scottsdale’s history and development (scottsdaleaz.gov/about). I would highly recommend it. The site provides a wonderful opportunity to discover interesting facts about the area. For example, Scottsdale’s slogan (Yes, we have a slogan!) is “The West’s Most Western Town,” and the official food, by 1994 mayoral proclamation, is chilli.
The questions that I have been pondering is: “In a place where for many home is somewhere else, where do we find our sense of ‘rootedness?’ Where and in what do we find that that thing which shapes our identity and grounds us?”
A few centuries ago, the writer of a letter to the church community in Ephesus wrote about “being rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).” Throughout the letter, the writer touches on many deep theological topics but towards the end transitions into a lighter and more pastoral tone. He tells them that he loves them and that he prays for them and that more than anything else in the world, he wants them to know of the inward strength that comes from the experience of God’s love. Specifically, he prays that they might be rooted and grounded in this love. To gain the inward strength that comes from Christ living in their lives. Both the New Revised Standard and the New International versions of the Bible translate the passage as “to be strengthened in one’s inner being.” In the Greek, that term “inner being” is meant to be comprehensive. It is meant to show that the whole of their lives — cognitive, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, even their physicality — is strengthened by God’s presence and God’s love. How many of us can say that? That everything about us, the totality of our inward and outward being, is strongly rooted in God's love?
Perhaps here in Scottsdale we may all cheer for different sports teams, spend half our year here and half somewhere else, or officially call another place “home”, but as people of faith we find strength for the journey and a common identity in God’s love.
To love is the essence of our humanity. It is the very heart of who we are and who we are meant to be. To love is to be alive. It is where we find our strength, our identity, and our roots.