A few weeks ago, I got a call from a friend of mine asking if I’d consider applying for a creative leadership position at his church. The excitement of the opportunity was quickly overshadowed with a cloud questions.
Is this the right thing? Should we leave Chicago? What does my story have to say about all this?
I left home at 18 in search of risk and adventure. As such, I spent the better part of my early adult life running around the country from one thing to the next. Some of it was circumstantial. Some you can chalk up to the “actor’s life.” But if I’m being really honest, much of my frenetic movement was simply because I was afraid—afraid that if I stayed anywhere too long people would find me out. And who wants that?
As my wife Margaret and I contemplated the idea of leaving, it became very clear we weren’t supposed to pursue the opportunity. At my most smug, I triumphantly declared the reason for staying put as: “I’m not done with this place!” While some of that may be true, my smugness was wiped quickly from my face as the actual reality set in. This place isn’t done with me.
For me in this season, leaving is not the risky thing. The risky thing now is staying.
It is submitting to the beautifully painful, transforming process of community. It is doing a dumb thing at work and then having to show back up the next day to face those you’ve disappointed. It is telling the truth instead of protecting yourself. It is letting people love you in spite of your ugly and broken bits, and then letting them gently guide you into the light. It is showing up to dinners instead of going home and feeling sorry for yourself. Truly, it is letting yourself go – in a good way.
Now for you, the risky thing might be to leave. You’ve needed a good kick in the pants out the door a long time ago, but the comfort of (fill in the blank) has just been too comfortable to give up. For you, taking a risk might mean getting the heck out of dodge – and fast.
But for others of you, the risky thing means staying exactly where you are. Breathing. Letting yourself go. Putting down some roots. Letting your community have its way with you.
Author Esther de Waal wrote much about St. Benedict and his life as a monk. I’ll end with her words on staying put, as I believe she sums up what I’m trying to say rather nicely:
“Instead of this bewildering and exhausting rushing from one thing to another, monastic stability means accepting this particular community, this place and these people, this and no other, as the way to God. The man or woman who voluntarily limits himself or herself to one building and a few acres of ground for the rest of life is saying that contentment and fulfillment do not consist in constant change, that true happiness cannot necessarily be found anywhere other than in this place and this time.” – Esther de Waal | Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict