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November 7, 2008

Losing Yourself in a Move

Almost everyone I know loathes moving - the packing, hauling, unpacking, and inability to find anything for days. It's no fun. Still, moving is part of virtually all of our lives. More than 40 million Americans move each year, and about a quarter of these undertake a significant, out-of-state move.

My father was a businessman employed by an international company, so when I was a girl my family made overseas moves every few years. "When you're new to a country and don't speak the language well," my father said, "you lose your personality. Your humor, intellect, interests - you can't communicate any of them." I experienced this firsthand during a college summer spent in Germany and found it one of the most frustrating parts of being a foreigner.

Having just moved my own family across the country, however, I'm seeing that the loss-of-self experience doesn't only apply to foreign moves and language barriers. It's part of the process of being transplanted. I'm used to the people in my day-to-day life knowing me - my personality, views, character. But suddenly they're all are invisible to those around me. Of course they emerge as I form new relationships, but it's a plodding process that requires time. And the months of establishing community and a life can be lonely and draining.

You don't have to read far into the Bible to see that it's chock full of relocation accounts. By chapter 12 of Genesis, Adam and Eve are evicted from Eden; Noah and co sail the globe; and Abraham leaves his homeland. "Leave your country, your people and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you," God tells Abraham in Gen 12:1. If it sounds dramatic, it is. To moving is to close the door on your whole life, and then open it onto a completely different life somewhere else. It's one of the more intense human experiences.

God's command to Abraham posed two questions. One - would Abraham actually leave his homeland and go? And two - if he did, how would he make it in the new land? Would he trust God to plug him into the right place in his new life, or would he rely on himself?

Trusting in God post-move, I'm finding, requires intentionality and discipline. The lack of relationships that initially marks one's life after a move can feel stark and unsettling, especially for a work-at-home mother like me with a home-based life. In the absence of the connections and commitments that filled my pre-move days, I note a tendency to fill the vacuum with other things - usually the web. The interactive feel of blogs, Facebook, and other online forums offer me temporary solace and a sense of community ?if only a 2-D version. But my online activities can easily balloon and become a crutch or even mini-addiction, especially on days when "live" community-building feels slow-going.

Now I'm all for technology and am not out to disparage the value of virtual connection or involvement. But the question is, am I running to this to avoid discouragement or loneliness? Am I seeking comfort in Facebook instead of God? When I do, it backfires and leaves me lonelier. I'll never find satisfaction in any effort to distract myself from something God's trying to do in me.

Because the Bible teaches that a big takeaway we're supposed to get out of moving is increased reliance on God. Relocation makes us feel untethered, out-of-place, not-yet-known - and consequently uncomfortable - because it's supposed to. God uses these feelings to reveal to us our dependence on him and drive us into his arms - our true home, where we're never out of place and are always fully known. And as we seek God and wait on him in the midst of our newbie struggles, he meets us there and shows himself faithful to bring us life in the new land.

Abraham and other Old Testament heroes are called "aliens and strangers on earth" by the writer of Hebrews (11:13). Their moving experiences prompted dependence on God to the point where they saw him as was their home? And more, they saw that their short-lived residence on earth was nothing compared to the "better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared (for them) a city" (v. 16).

So I pray for grace to emulate Abraham and seek God as he did, seeing my earthly residence through a heaven-focused lens that empowers me to hold it lightly.


Wow, God just amazes me when he meets you right where you are. This is my first time coming to this website but I am in the process of moving from Missouri to North Caroline to joing my husband who is in the Army. Everyday as I look at the checklist a million feelings run through my body the number one being the fear of not being known or having any where I belong or am suppose to be. Thank you for sharing.

What an amazing post...I can related 100% with Susan's perpective on moving, as I myself recently packed up my life in Boston and moved it to Los Angeles. I can also say it has been one of the most amazing experiences, having noone to rely on but the Lord. The power of faith is incredible!

Having just moved to a brand new location recently I can echo what Susan is saying. Moves are hard when you not only don't know anyone, but you also are even unfamiliar with the land, territory, towns, roads, schools etc. You do feel lost and it seems easier to just hunker down in your home.

Our moves are not by accident. In His sovereignty, God places us right where He wants us. We just need to continue to ask Him to show us the why? My parents tell a story of when they moved back to CA from MI. They used up their entire savings ($50,000) in this move, and they only stayed for one year. Why did God have them move? THey believe it is because God is an extravagant God. There was one woman who became a believer because of their relationship with her while they were in Santa Barbara. God loved this woman extravagantly; enough that He would spend $50,000 to bring her to Himself. Why has God placed you exactly where you are? Who does God desire you to connect with? I guarantee you, your new home will be home (no matter how long you stay)if you connect with real live people.

Although, I haven't moved in 10 years, this post really spoke to my heart. My husband and I have always said that we'd be open to wherever God leads. In saying that, do we really mean it... Would I really pick up and leave the comforts that I've established here, all for the unknown? It would be hard, but the peace that comes from doing God's will and being obedient is one that I wouldn't pass up, and that means even if He chooses to keep us here in NM... What a relief to know that I'm not in control and that I serve an awesome God that knows me better than I know myself.
Thanks for the great post!

Having moved nine times in seven years and knowing in my spirit there is yet another coming-this topic brings fresh fire to my faith. Each one has deepened me. I agree with the statement that it strips us of our trust in "Egypt's horses and chariots" (whatever form they may have in our life) and shows us I AM. Ask.....he knows what you have need of-friends, familiar things, a feeling of safety in your home. And gives them to us in unexpected ways -so there is no denying the Giver. Every level, every day -he is faithful and has compassion for you.

Thank you for this article. I needed it. It is good to remember that God has seen people through move many times in the past. I have moved a lot over recently, 4 moves in 6 years, and this last one,back to Alaska, a place I once thought I would never leave and claimed as home, has been SO hard.

During my 23 years as an AF wife, I've experienced a number of moves. Overseas and stateside. Having 5 children born in various corners of the world made it even more interesting. One was born in Japan. Perhaps being a pianist and organist made it easier. Almost as soon as we moved, we all became members of the chapel choirs. And later, I became the chapel organist. soon after became the organist. When my husband got a remote tour in Thailand for a year, the rest of us moved to close to Thailand as I could get - Within 2 weeks of arriving in a northern Calif. community, the pastor of a local church visited our family. It seems they were losing their organist whose husband had been assigned to a base in New Mexico. Next week I began my year as their organist.
I feel truly blessed. I am 77 now and have just decided it's time to "hang up" my organ shoes and let someone else have their turn. Maybe they will be as lucky as i have been.

Hello to all of you other military wives! This article captured my interest because my hubby is commissioning as an AF officer Dec 20th, and we'll be moving from SC to CA in March (so hello also to all of you have come from the east coast to the west--I'm not alone, lol). We're excited, as we are also graduating college in Dec and ready to see how God unfold's this next chapter of our lives. Anyway, I'm going to bookmark this article to come back to after we move. I'm sure I'll need it! :-) God bless you all.

Once again God has given me another shoring up in the faith department. This article really reminded me of how blessed I am. I am currently in the middle of another move. At least every two years for over the last 20 we have moved with my husband's job (so far 10 across state or out of country moves and several within state). We have been truly blessed to have God prepare the way with a home, friends, church, doctors, etc EVERY time. He has never forgotten one thing, regardless of what we might have forgotten a/or wondered about. My kids have been so blessed to have such unique experiences and adapt well because they know how God always goes all out and never half way for us. So we are now released from MD and go to TX to do God's work, as He is our source, even if it is due to the job that we move. Praise God for the fullness of His wisdom. My moving advice is this: pray, believe and receive His fullness. Then be planted wherever you are. **Thank all of you for sharing your faith about moving!

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