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.