I’m overcome by boxes, chaos, attempts at organization, and last minute decisions. The packers and loaders arrive in five days to crate all of our earthly possessions and move them from north to south. We live north of some parts of Canada, and we will soon live south of some parts of Mexico. As far as climate change goes, ours will be extreme.
We’ve lived here for seventeen years. We’ve launched four young adults from this house. Many nights of sleep have been lost considering the traditions that have become part of our family, but which will no longer be part of our lives as we cycle through the holidays next year. Many tiny things we “always do” will exist no longer. There have been many tears.
We’ve woven ourselves into the fabric of a church, knowing the family history of most of its members and having seen some of them grow from teens to now mature leaders. We know what parts of our church we love and what we dislike – every church has flaws. We will soon discover these about an entirely different body of believers.
As we prepare to go, all the things we love about our community enlarge in our minds, while all the things that drove us crazy recede.
Relocating takes vicious swipes at our self-image, our convictions, and our faith, forcing us to reevaluate our traditions, our reasons for doing what we do, and our mistakes in our current location. During relocations, we typically face a mini-identity crisis, no matter our age. We ask:
- Who am I really? What parts of me will I take to my new home? What parts will I abandon far behind?
- Why do I do what I currently do? Will I continue that tradition, habit, or ritual at the new place?
- How have I grown and what have I learned? How do I hope to apply that?
- What has changed in my core convictions? How will these impact the practices I adopt in my new home?
- What weaknesses or strengths of my current church motivate me to keep certain practices and to discard others?
- Do I want to continue to worship in a similar manner?
- Will God show himself faithful in this new place? Why does it feel as if I’m leaving him far behind when I know that isn’t true?
Because of this reality, this disjointed sense of existence experienced by people in transition, God urged that care and thoughtfulness be directed toward sojourners, strangers, refugees, and newcomers. Not only do we land in new territory with no knowledge of where the safe places and the dangerous places are located, but we’re emotionally and spiritually dislocated and financially strained as well. Most new people in any community are.
This is why God is gentle with the stranger. He gave directions to his people to provide kindness, welcome, and hospitality to them. To us. “Continue in brotherly love. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:1-2a). We will soon number as strangers again. We begin a new year by beginning all over again.
This is good.
Each relocation remakes us into kinder, more compassionate, and more thoroughly self-examined people, for each one prompts a reassessment of ourselves as human beings and as believers. Each move prompts us to tear everything apart to reassess our habits, mannerisms, practices, and beliefs.
But God is with us. He will help us to disassemble ourselves and to reassemble again. He will make us into the people he wants us to be, always and ever reforming and remaking us more into the image of his Son. No matter how messy the process.