It’s been two years since we signed the lease on this partial house that feels like home most days. How we got here is a story all in itself, and if you haven’t heard it, you can read the back story on this blog. (Search for the category “how we got here” in the drop down menu on the sidebar.)
And so we’re here. Still. A year ago, I was in awe of the work God was doing in our lives, the healing He was working just by us being here in this place. It was good, that first year, the kind of rest and recovery we needed after a hard season.
Now, at the end of our second year here, there’s a stirring in my soul and I’m still deciding if it’s holy or selfish or something in between.
See, part of me wants to stay. Here. Forever. Or at least until my kids are done with school. We love our district and the school our daughter attends, which will soon be the school of both of our children. I am making friends with moms at the school and we enjoy living in an area that is diverse and speaks to our love of both city and country. It is becoming home as much as any place can and I am reluctant to even consider leaving it.
Another part of me thinks that’s selfish, though. To be comfortable and happy in a place–is that okay? Doesn’t God want us to suffer a little when we’re following Him? Why would He allow us such joy?
And yet it’s there, in the Old Testament, spoken to a people who spent a hard season, generations really, in slavery in a foreign land. To them, God says, Enjoy the land I’m giving you. Settle down there. Raise your families. Feast on the harvest.
I know these are not direct promises to our family’s situations but these words show me a God who cares about His people, especially those who have suffered. We can rest in His goodness. We can enjoy good things. Not every season has to be a trial. It is okay to flourish in a place that may or may not be home.
Our church had a Skype call with some missionary friends recently. They have served in their country for five years without a lot of results, at least the kind you can see. Our friend expressed his family’s weariness, their wonderings if maybe it was time to move on and find a place that was more receptive to the Good News of Jesus.
Five years seems like a long time, but when Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God, He compared it to things that were small and slow and steady. A mustard seed that doesn’t look like much but grows into a giant tree. Yeast that is almost imperceptible but works through the whole dough. A wheat harvest. There were no timelines, no instant-growth guarantees. Just constancy and faithfulness.
Sometimes I wish it were easier.
I am mildly obsessed with houses that are for sale. Anytime I see a for sale sign on one of our routes through town, I make a mental note to look it up when I get home, and then I google and scan real estate sites, looking to see how much and what the house is like on the inside.
A house, to me, would mean we were staying. At least for a while. And staying only makes sense if we’re certain. At least that’s what I think. A mortgage, a home that we’re not renting, those are commitments. And there is a bit too much uncertainty yet for me to feel comfortable with pursuing this dream of a house we can call our own.
But the kids are outgrowing their small shared room and though we are making this house ours as much as we can, it will soon be time for us to move on.
Other things have to happen for that to happen, so we’re calling on the God who moves mountains and parts seas to show us the way. We cannot find it on our own.
I hate moving, but sometimes going and leaving seem easier than staying.
When I moved back home after college and I was interviewing for jobs, they all asked the same question: how long do you plan to stay? I don’t know if it was because I was 22 or had a restless look in my eyes or what, but my answer was always the same: I’m here until the fall when my best friend gets married. After that, I don’t know.
One job wanted a two-year commitment, which sounded to my 22-year-old self like a life sentence. The job I eventually took I stayed at for 7 years. Life is funny sometimes.
I wanted to go but I was forced to stay and in staying I found friends and a husband and a part of me I didn’t know existed.
Since then, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere was five years, our last home, the place where my husband was in seminary (I still want to write and say “cemetery.” Freud would have a hey-day with that) and I was constantly looking for a way out.
It’s this way with me: if we’re not going to stay then I’m not going to invest and I know I missed out on relationships and experiences because I was always looking to “next.”
Now, staying has me scared. Because staying means committing. To a place. To a people. It means going deeper in friendships and relationships. It means caring enough to get hurt. It means being faithful even if we don’t see any results.
In some ways, staying feels like giving up. Even though staying is a good thing.
Because once upon a time, we dreamed of leading a church, and that dream could take us in one of many directions: Illinois, Ohio, or parts unknown in Pennsylvania. As long as we were still open to that dream, we could consider getting a call one day that could send us packing.
But the dream has changed. It’s changing still and we can’t really describe it or define it, which makes it difficult to explain. We know more what we don’t want than what we do, and so if we decide to stay here, does that mean we’ve given up on the old dream?
Maybe. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
I’m having a hard time hearing from God these days, but that’s my fault, not His. My life is full of distractions and busy-ness and me trying to figure out how to fix everything in my own power and strength, which is almost non-existent.
I am fidgety and restless, desperate for a sign that it’s time to change or move on. I’d even take a clear sign that it’s okay to stay, but so far God doesn’t work like that. If He’s anything, He’s subtle, not because He doesn’t want us to find Him but because He wants us to trust Him. He’s like a guide who has been this way before but carries no map, only the memories of past travels. He is confident in His leading, but to trust Him is an act of faith and takes time.
The more I walk with Him the more I trust Him, but I still get distracted on the path. Worried about bears and snakes and all kinds of trials. Concerned about our provisions for the journey. And like a whining child I ask too often if we’re there yet, even though I have no idea where “there” is.
I imagine His smile as He turns His face toward the sun, basking in another day of life, His steps sure and certain though I see no visible path. When I doubt, He takes my hand and leads. He never gets too far ahead but sets the pace that is best.
Should we stay? Should we go?
I think I’m asking the wrong questions. Because, really, it’s not about the where or the when but the who.
Who will I trust? Who is in charge? Who is leading the way?
If it is Jesus, as I say I believe, then the rest of it doesn’t matter. (Remind me of that when I’m ready to take back control.)
He is the way.
He says, “Follow me.”
It is time for me to trust Him again.