On Moving

movingThe hardest part of moving isn’t negotiating a home sale, packing boxes, unpacking boxes, changing your address, navigating a whole new map, visiting the DMV and finding all the places needed to do life. The logistics of moving are pretty challenging, but they can be dealt with one step, one day at a time.

It’s the ache that comes with moving; some combination of loneliness, invisibility, frustration, leaving the known—that’s the hardest part. The part that lingers after the last box has been broken down and final picture hung. Between cross town and out of state moves, I’ve now moved 22 times—and I’ve done it enough to know: it takes time for that ache to melt away. 

So right now, while I’m living a stripped down version of my life, I’m trying to not rush through the ache. Yes, I’m longing for a feeling of fullness to be present again, but the ache teaches me much. When there aren’t small group events and girls night’s out and swim lessons and no one is expecting me to be somewhere…I have to just…exist.

And there in the existing I find it: perspective.

Yes, God loves me, I’m special and the church body “needs me to be some body part to work well.” Yes, I’m somebody’s BFF in MI and they’re lonely without me. Yes, I had an impact at my last job.

But, guess what…in some ways, I’m disposable. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Ouch. I don’t want to feel disposable— I want to feel like an integral part of my church and friends’ lives and my job. So much of my identity is wrapped in those things. But stay with me… even though it hurts, it’s beautiful, too—best expressed by a metaphor from nature.

When a statuesque, old tree is pulled up by its roots, right afterward, there’s a hole in the ground and the disrupted earth is scattered around the hole. I’ve seen trees like this laying in the forest, toppled by a fierce storm, their once strong roots exposed appendages; my instinct is to lament the loss of the gorgeous tree.  Over time, the tree begins to decompose, and the hole begins to fill in as the surrounding dirt is pushed back down…maybe by weather or creatures walking over it.

Upon observation months later, if you look in the dirt where the tree once stood, there are usually 1,000 tiny plants just starting to appear. The fertility of the soil makes a rich bed for new growth. So even though the tree was lost, the forest doesn’t mourn forever—it gets back to making new baby trees. And though the tree is gone, disposable, it left a fertile ground and seeds for the next season of trees.

That’s what moving is like. It feels like a life as good and solid as a tree is being ripped up leaving a hole in the ground and the ache is the old life beginning to decompose. I am faced with a choice—to cling to the old life and feel discarded on the woodland floor—or focus on the fact that I’ve made the imprint God has called me to make in that particular season, and start fresh like a new seedling.

Just like a forest cycles through trees and stays the same forest, a church or institution or circle of friends will continue on as people come and go. Because that’s the way it’s meant to be. God has seasons for each of us, and when he’s ready for new growth in us or others, our old life is disposable.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it?”

That doesn’t mean the ache goes away immediately or that friendships die. It means if we can focus on the bigger picture and the coming new growth instead of what we had or were, there are endless possibilities…it just takes time and trust that the new life is coming. Like a forest, God and his purposes are the constant, and the individual trees will come and go, just like seasons of our lives.