So we’re moving in about a month. To a place that will be cheaper, have more trees, and have lots of wonderful friends and restaurants I love and other familiar things. My feelings have been almost exclusively positive towards this move, and besides the stress of finding a place to live, both Jeremiah and I have experienced relatively little anxiety about things. After all, we’re not moving to a strange new land. We’re moving to the Triangle!
You know, the place with more advanced degrees per capita than anywhere else in the United States? The area which includes my beloved Chapel Hill? Where I can still access both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and can even go to Caribou Coffee again? Yes, that place. That glorious place that offers basically anything a person could ask for besides an IKEA. Grass? Check. Decent drivers and sensible road signs? Compared to L.A., a huge improvement. Hippies? Check. Crepe myrtles? Check. Ethnic diversity? Ok, so we’re not L.A. there, but we do have a lot more black people and a lot of immigration in the area and N.C. has one of the larger American Indian populations compared to other states. Fascinating and annoying Bible-Belt culture? Check. Access to barbeque=pulled pork? Triple check!
And yet, a few nights ago, for the first time, it hit me how little time we have left here. I got surprisingly weepy over this, and as I tried to make sense of it, I realized something I had never articulated about my experiences moving (many, many times) during childhood. Moving to California after college was hard for me because I was leaving so many people I loved. However, I also knew I’d see UNC again, I’d eat on Franklin Street again, I’d have other opportunities to reconnect with my past. Leaving California, however, is much more like every other move I’ve made, in that I’m not certain when or if I’ll ever be back.
And I realized that perhaps the biggest tragedy of having to move—perhaps especially as a child, but at any age—is the way it feels like things that used to be a part of you simply cease to exist. All the things you drive by on a daily basis, the people you saw all the time but weren’t around enough to get to know better, the foods you ate, the kinds of foliage around, your daily and weekly patterns based on what coffee shop is next to what other errand you need to run, etc… All of those things disappear somehow. You still remember them, but they are like fading shadows. You almost wonder if they were ever more tangible or if they’ve always been barely there. And you lose a sense of your own story. As people and places and the specific way the sun would shrine through the skyline melts away from your memory, you lose all the things that helped you make meaning out of this recently closed chapter of life. Of course, as you get older, it is easier to go back to visit or to think of how one might keep up with better friends. But to some extent, I think there is always that same sense of loss.
For a while, I’ve been particularly concerned with hospitality-related issues. From developing multi-ethnic churches to including non-Christians in our friendship circles, to not putting all teenagers in a box, I have long cared about making room for different sorts of people, especially in ministry settings. Now, as we prepare to move again, it’s got me thinking about how little attention most churches pay to the needs of those moving and wondering what could be done to make those transitions easier for people. How do we help them cope with the loss of all the things that seem to be no more? How do we help them share their stories with us and incorporate them into a new story with us?
More thoughts to come…