The angst of dislocation is something every human goes through. It’s part of living in modern society. It happens if you leave home for college or when you go out there looking for a first job. It happens when you get fired or laid off, when you move from a place you’ve lived for more than five years, when you leave the comfort of family, job and church for a new location. It happens when tragedy strikes in your life, through death, divorce and other losses. It happens when you enter a new context to do ministry. It happens when you are forced to think about ministry differently than you’ve always thought about it before. It happens of course when you move to a foreign place, learn a foreign language. International workers for the church are trained for this angst and get used to it as a vocational hazard to be embraced. I contend that we church-planters seeking to plant fresh expressions of the gospel in new places must also embrace this angst of dislocation. I think pastors/ministry leaders should recognize it as part of their lives too. It can be life changing if we allow God to work in and through it.
This angst of dislocation comes from: a.) losing all your routines, b.) losing your closest and most regular of relationships, c.) losing the familiarity of a place you called home, d.) losing the security of what tomorrow and the next years will look like, e.) losing the sense of who you are within a social web you’ve gotten used to. It leaves you vulnerable. It leaves you unsettled. It leaves you insecure.
I contend that this angst of dislocation is a holy angst. It is a place of unspeakable depth, so empty and yet so full. In this place, stripped of all the things you leaned on as crutches to keep you secure in who you are and your place of power, you must answer again, before God, who you really are, what are your most core commitments, and will you walk in trust and allow God to do a new thing in you and the world via the uncertainties that lie ahead.
If anyone shuns this place of dislocation, we will go into crisis. If we resist dealing with it, and put up walls of defense, a breakdown of massive proportion is just around the corner. You cannot hide from the place of dislocation.
And yet, I suggest, if a church leader can’t walk through this place, chances are his or her ministry is going to get warped in some way. That leader will surely devolve into default mode, go back to the things he or she has felt most comfortable with, and she or he will not grow. Worse, God will not take this leader into the new territories of life with Him and His mission. On the other hand, if a church leader can walk though this place by going to the place of trust in God’s sovereign care, to the place of mutual discernment with God and others in Him, and the place of walking in faith into the decisions that lie ahead, that leader shall be used of God in new and unforeseen ways. You see, being able to inhabit the angst of dislocation is holy, the place where God manifests Himself to us in the most unusual and fullest of ways.
I’ve just recently moved with my family. My move, now in my fifties, from one place of ministry (lifeonthevine) to another (peace of Christ church), is not near as traumatic as other moves in my life. I’ve experienced the angst of dislocation in much more intense times. Yet still, I’m looking toward the following:
- A new attentiveness to what God is doing in my routines, what new people God is bringing into my life. Looking at new opportunities. Praying in each rhythm of my life for God’s Kingdom to come. A new awareness of the places around me that are troubled, strife ridden. As we seek to locate in a new house, these awarenesses become important and play into where we are even going to live.
- A new posture of listening and discerning. What things am I missing in my new location from my old location? What idolatries have shaped my life?
- A new posture of boldness, willingness to risk. I believe in boldly discerning the future and stepping into it in trust. This takes discerning with friends, community, family. It takes discerning risks carefully. Am I seeking something new, or going to live here, or being in this ministry because of personal ego? False security? Greed? Unholy wants? Or am I submitting to the Kingdom? Kingdom goals? Kingdom purposes?
I believe sincerely that church planters, church leaders, indeed all Christians on mission, must be able to embrace the holy angst of dislocation. Embrace it, engage it, live in it long enough to discern God’s work in our lives and where He is placing us at the center of His will. The incredible ramifications into and out from our lives is enormous. I’ve seen it in my life many times. To avoid it, to defend against it, to opt out, leads to dormancy and mere survival on our own terms. We must be willing to go into the holy angst of dislocation from time to time in our lives. And then be willing to enter it again when the time and calling presents itself clearly as from God.
What is your take on this? What stories do you have of entering into this place with God? What examples from Scripture speak to this? (There are many.)