It hit me the other day: we’ve been back in the Bay Area for as long as we were in Seattle.
If you’re new to these parts, the short of our story is this: a week after the 2016 election, my family and I moved up to the Pacific Northwest. We thought it’d be for life, near my family and friends I’d known for twenty, thirty years of my life. But our time up there ended just as soon as it began, and twenty months after we arrived, we found ourselves driving back down the I-5 corridor, to Oakland once again.
You can read more about the aftermath of the move here.
But if there’s one thing that’s marked my adult life, it’s this: I’ve never stayed put in any one place for more than two years. This was never the plan, of that I’m certain, but it’s just how things happened to shake out …and the irony of it all, is that as much as I long to stay rooted in one place, sometimes it’s easier for me to leave than it is to stay.
Several months ago I picked up Leslie Verner’s new release, Invited. And in a chapter titled “Staying Put,” she asks a question that has continued to worm its way into my soul, months after the fact:
“What if resistance to selling out actually looks like staying put?” (48)
Perhaps like Leslie, for a long time I equated going to a certain kind of holiness. Surely God was in the business of following a call, of chasing after the spirit of ministry.
So, I packed up my private school classroom and started teaching in the public schools.
So, I packed up my public school classroom and moved to Washington for a job in ministry.
So, I moved to California for a job in ministry.
So, I moved from house to house, apartment to apartment.
So, that “I” became a “we,” and we moved from house to house, apartment to apartment, state to state and back again.
But now that we’ve been back in California for twenty months, all I want to do is stay.
“It sounds like you long for a kind of rootedness,” a pastor said to me a couple of weeks ago, when I sat on the couch in his office.
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” I replied, tears trailing down my cheeks. I long for the rootedness of community, of staying in one place and with one people – of not packing up moving boxes every eighteen to twenty-four months because that’s the only thing I know how to do.
So instead, I resist the urge to move, to leave, to carry on, even as the urge to run rumbles around in my soul. I stay, even when staying feels messy instead of shiny, even when it must be certifiably true that the grass is greener on the other side.
But I also think about this staying when an invitation to socially distance ourselves due to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow.
Because if we think about Leslie’s words, resisting further spread of the virus actually looks like staying put.
It looks like hunkering down. It looks like entertaining ourselves with the books and the movies and the humans right in front of us, instead of hopping on a plane or going to that conference or even heading out for a beer.
After all, it’s okay for resistance to look like staying put because resistance is staying put.
In this with you,
What is staying put to you? How is it an act of resistance?
Also, I realize that the reality of the virus is so much bigger than the few sentences written above. My heart grieves the reality of school closures for under-resourced students and families, small business owners and those people experiencing homelessness, to name a few. So please, do yourself a favor and educate yourself on the topic if you haven’t already.
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