community, spiritual

Roots and Shoots

There’s a question that’s plagued me for years: Why would a person leave something he knows to be good in exchange for something he hopes to be good? 

We’ve all done it — or had the opportunity to do it. I think of colleagues who have left good careers in, say, law or engineering to pursue ministry or art. Classmates who have left family and friends to work or study abroad. And, yes, now my own journey joining the ranks of those world-traveler classmates.

Why do we do this? What leads to such stay-or-go decisions? Certainly faith and gut feelings, maybe fortune telling and flipping a coin, come into play. But is there anything more, I’ve wondered, we can wrap our minds around?

Yes. I think so.

Last weekend, I spent an afternoon with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture.

As you might guess from the title, I half-expected The Wisdom of Stability would convince me to cancel my Canada-bound plans and stay put. Indeed, Wilson-Hartgrove makes a strong case for committing to our communities both for our own sake and for the sake of the community.

But The Wisdom of Stability didn’t exactly change my mind; rather, it may have eased my mind. From its pages on staying-versus-going, I gleaned that we’re ready to go when:

  1. We’ve established roots. Quote: “We might even go so far as to say that true Christian mission is not possible until we have established roots of love through the practice of stability.”
  2. We’ve faced our demons. Quote: “Maybe none of us are safe to respond to God’s call until we’ve stayed put long enough to face our demons.”
  3. We’ve received a call to bless others (whether in specific, known ways or not). Quote: “We should expect authentic stability to nurture the virtues that allow Christians to become mobile in the best of ways — ready to hear the Abrahamic call” to go bless others.

Establishing roots helps us move with a support system in mind. arbol-raizbFacing our demons helps us move with peace in our hearts. Responding to a call helps us move with a sense of purpose in our souls. We should never move, I’m learning, because of restlessness, escapism, or even why-the-hell-not-ism (I just made that up) but because we’ve pursued some stability, some peace with the past, and some purpose for the future.

Picture a tree. It has roots, and it has shoots. Here’s the thing: both are important.

If you’ve been putting down roots for a while, praise God and consider challenging yourself with growing in some way. If you’ve been growing shoots for a while, praise God and consider challenging yourself with putting down roots in some way.

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