Rain Valley newcomers pretty much fell into two groups: people running away from something and people running away from everything. -Kristin Hannah
Growing up a pastor’s kid means you move around a lot. People used to ask why we relocated so frequently, often assuming my father was in the military. Correcting them, I’d say with fake confidence, “My dad’s a pastor.” It was not the most popular excuse.
Until age 17, we moved every one to five years, with stints in California, Missouri, Idaho, Washington State, and back to California. The four of us, from our first mom, were born, not only in different cities, but in different states. We knew how to pick up, pack up and leave town. We knew how to get out of the way while the parsonage was stripped. We knew how to get out of the way while the next parsonage was filled and organized. We knew how to explore a new home and church.
There was grief. A couple of the moves were poignant for me, the ones that occurred at major milestones in a teen’s life: moving in the middle of sixth grade, again in twelfth. Our shallow roots yanked to begin again.
I do not turn to look back in regret. I do not wish for different. Each departure offered a new adventure. Each arrival offered fresh opportunity. The greatest difficulty involved starting the new schools, determining the systems and the people, the coursework and lunchtime.
A nomadic life still whispers my name. When things get difficult or uncomfortable, or I become disillusioned with my community, I dream of picking up and finding another place to contain my life. When disagreements and discomfort arise, I want to leave. I want to pluck my children out of their grounded comforts, beginning again with the shallow belief a new place will insert adventure and wonder and excitement. While on vacation Eric and I will play the Can You Imagine game, placing ourselves like Monopoly pieces on the board of a new land, pretending where we might live and how we would make a living – carrying on the ruse until we check Zillow for home prices. The fun tumbles to a firm stop.
A few years ago, in an attempt to downsize and reduce our financial liabilities, we embarked upon a massive housing transition. In our decision making, we determined the kids and I would move to our small house in Gunnison for a year. We’d pay off debt and try the “simple” life (whatever that means). I suspect you are beginning to see the fallacy of our thinking, piling three growing children into a small home in one of the most frigid locations on the United States map, but let me continue.
Our hearts were set, the plan was made. Eric would commute back and forth, I would stay with the kids while they attended school and we took a stab at integrating into the Rocky Mountain community.
Reality set in when we took stock of the goodness of our life in Longmont, when we catalogued the hours we had poured into friends and friends poured into us. We were loved with solid and generous systems in place. We had roots and knew without doubt we had people who had our backs. No longer did it makes sense to run. No longer did it make sense to want more.
We abandoned the plan and settled for good in this beautiful dot on the globe, our little corner of the world.
When things get hard, it’s easy to abandon ship, it’s easy to fantasize about the next place or the next thing. I can be lulled into thinking the problems are not unique to me, that I am immune from the difficulties of a new location. That somewhere else is just perfect. But don’t we take ourselves with us? I don’t get to divorce from myself to begin anew.
I’ll be honest. I’ve been in a hard period for awhile now. As my eyes open to the injustices around the world and in my own community – the disparity of wealth, the rule of privilege. I want to cut and run. I want to focus on the next life, the eternity promised to believers of Jesus. I want to erect my wall and live in my compound of like-minded individuals where we all sing Kumbaya while dreaming of our ideal utopian society. I want out of the abuses of power, the male-dominated systems, the money. I want to create my little world and live by and by.
But this is not the dream. And this is not our work. Our work is to seek justice, to walk in humility, to strive for mercy. Our work is not to sequester ourselves away in some perfect idea of a life, but to live and create community, and in creating community we learn to love.
So, I carry on. I partner with people who see the world as I do. I partner with people who see the world differently than I do. I partner with people who strive to bring justice in the ways that we can. I want to know people and bring the light and love of Hope to the darkness.
In these days with discussions of walls and deportations and refugees and racial injustice, may we take a look around our neighborhoods and towns. May we seek to love in the ways that are comfortable. May we take risks and love in the ways that are difficult. May we aim to understand how we’ve been equipped and provided for here, for now.
Sometimes the temptation grips to dream of the next world. Sometimes that’s fine and it’s fun, but let’s not lose sight of our here-ness and our now-ness. Let’s unwrap the present and seek to live fully in our moment as we are placed, finding the goodness and the gratitude around each corner.
Here. It’s where we are.