Word of the Week

The Wisdom of Staying Put

Last week while Kevin and I spent some time in Georgia with his family, I had a chance to catch up on a bunch of reading I'd wanted to do. One of the books I finished was by a former classmate of mine at Duke, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove called The Wisdom of Stability.

Jonathan makes a strong case in this text for the spiritual discipline of investing your life in a particular place. He calls to question the practices of our mobile and always on-the-go culture, suggesting that the "Let's move in 2 years if we don't really like it here" might not be the best approach to Christian discipleship.  Jonathan points out that this is why many of our communities, churches and relationships suffer-- lack of committment to stay and truly invest in people around us.

I was challenged at many points to re-consider many of the ways that such cultural practices like, "No need to get to know these neighbors, we are moving in 2 years" or "My house is my sanctuary from the outside world" or even "We could always move . . . " have infiltrated my own life. I spent some reflection time considering how my level of investment needs to take increase a notch or two in the neighborhood where I live and the faith community where I serve.

But, at the same time I felt that much of what Jonathan advocates for is nearly impossible to live out unless you live in a monastery (like many of the examples came from) or in an intentional Christian community (like Jonathan and his family do).   Even the most community centered of all churches still really struggles in inspiring the type of investment in its members which would make them say, "I am here for good." The cultural pull toward mobility is just too strong.

But, then, as I was reading, I opened my eyes and remembered where I was: the small town of Sylvania, GA.  I was in the house where my in laws have lived for over 40 years and where nearly all of  my extended family lives on the same street.  They've been there for a long time and they don't plan to move anytime soon (if ever!).

Their lives together in community as a family and with their surrounding neighbors (in contrast to the fast paced impersonal nature of my life in DC) is really what the wisdom of stability is all about. No one goes hungry in the surrounding area for their always an extra plate on the stove. My mother in-law has an open door policy and during any given hour you just don't know who is going to walk in . . . a neighbor visiting to share the latest news, the preacher coming to pray with my mother-in-law after a doctor's visit, a cousin coming from the next town up for an afternoon conversation. It's chaotic and wonderful all at the same time.

 It's a life that does not tire of doing and seeing the same things every morning. It's a life that values the land, hard work and being together without any fancy occasion. The fruits of community just are there naturally.

I'm thankful for the witness of Jonathan and the intentional Christian community called the Rutba House where he lives, but I'm also even more thankful after reading his book for my own family's witness of stability. I grateful to them for all they've taught me and will continue to teach me about the goodness of life coming to you IF you'll just stay put long enough to recieve it.