book reflections, mental health & wellness, spiritual, work & vocation

Climbing the Ladder

In some recent posts, both This Is Not a Travel Blog and Roots and Shoots, I’ve mentioned Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s book The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. Truly, it’s one of the most necessary, even prophetic books I’ve come acrossprophetic because stability is not something twenty-first century Westerners practice and necessary because stability is something twenty-first century Westerners need.

In a section on “the ladder we climb,” Wilson-Hartgrove summarizes a situation so eerily relatable to my own experience that I’m posting the paragraph here in whole:

“Practicing stability has meant unlearning the habits of a culture that tells us the answer to our problems is always somewhere else. For most young people in the West, ‘good education’ leads to a migratory existence. Conventional wisdom among the middle class says, ‘Go away from home for a good four-year degree. Go somewhere else for a master’s. Travel around and see the world a little. Then maybe think about a terminal degree somewhere else.’ Even on the fast track, this plan will take you into your midthirties. By then, of course, we’re well prepared for an economy that tells us where it needs us most. We sometimes call this ‘climbing the ladder,’ but even as a metaphor, it’s a stretch. Without a stable foundation to rest on, ladders become dizzying and dangerous.” (emphasis mine)

To be honest, Wilson-Hartgrove says that he largely followed this pattern himself, leaving home for “a good four-year degree,” going “somewhere else for a master’s,” and doing his fair share of domestic and overseas missions work along the way. And, to be honest, I’m probably living under the same paradigm.

But the problem isn’t necessarily so much with climbing the ladder so much as it is with securing the ladder.

The question for all you ladder-climbers like me is this: Do you have a stable foundation to rest on?

Do you have a healthy appreciation for affiliation (the people around you) and not just ambition (the goals you aspire to)?

Do you have some sense of a support network socially, core values morally, guiding practices spiritually, resilience emotionally, and a sense of preparedness practically and financially? (These are hard questions. We’ll probably be answering them for our whole lives.)

Do you know — really know — that you’re a child of God, loved no matter how high you climb or don’t climb, secure in His hand no matter how far you go or don’t go?

2 thoughts on “Climbing the Ladder”

  1. Good questions. I think this is a foreign concept to Western culture, because we prize the individual above the community. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, etc. We long for the foundation of affiliation (family, friends, etc.), but more and more we don’t know or understand what that entails. I only thank God for his intervention in my life and giving me my own family that stabilizes me in many ways.

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