It is not uncommon to ask a pastor where they have lived in the past 10 years, and have 2 or more states listed off. There are as many reasons for this occurrence as there are pastors. One reason may be wanting to follow Christ in some understanding of “the son of man has nowhere to rest his head” (Matt 8:20). Pastors follow the call of God to stay move-able. Some may even think the putting down of roots to be making oneself unavailable to the future calls of God.
But what if in remaining move-able, we pastors have also missed out on leading God’s people in the important work of “place-making”? Walter Brueggemann says this of what he calls our problem of “placelessness”:
“That promise concerned human persons who could lead detached, unrooted lives of endless choice and no commitment. It was glamorized around the virtues of mobility and anonymity that seemed so full of promise for freedom and self-actualization. But it has failed….It is now clear that a sense of place is a human hunger that urban promise has not met….it is rootlessness and not meaninglessness that characterizes the current crisis. There are no meanings apart from roots.” – Brueggemann, The Land
With unemployment rates rising, we see huge benefits to websites offering to match jobs from the east with workers from the west. To the availability and affordability of u-hauls, light-weight furniture, and new employment that includes paid moving expenses. But what it also does is keep the “greener grass” mentality forever before us. “Yes, I will live here and raise my family here.” is spoken with “..until something better is found, or my needs force me to look elsewhere.” being said under our breath.
I obviously has very little ground to stand on here. I’m 30, and have changed addresses at least 6 times since turning 18. But I think it’s important for us to recapture “place-making” as an important part of our faithfulness to God. Ever since humanity was “displaced” from the Garden because of sin, God and His people have been working toward a return to implacement together.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that “home-making” is more of an important theological act than we’ve ever really given credit to. It means figuring out how to stay in one place, and transforming that place by our extended presence and life with God may be more important than moving to where the gold rush of “success” is being promised. That living this way may actually limit us, and force us to live more simply than if we were free to move based on whatever greener grass we thought would be inherently good for us and our great-grandchildren. Caring for the structures of our aging homes, tending to the plant and animal life in our yard, and building long-term community with the people around us – have eternal value as these things are by nature done as liturgy, the “work of the people.”
Is it bad to move? No. There are plenty of good reasons to make the decision to follow God’s call to another place of residence. But most of us don’t live in a culture where that’s the question being asked.
May that encourage us this week as we pull another weed, repaint the bedroom, mow our yard, feed our squirrels, hang new curtains, talk to our neighbors, and fix that board that keeps coming loose…