Thursday, August 28, 2008
I grew up in a community where few people seemed to relocate. My parents moved here to the KC area be closer to their grandchildren after living for 35 years in the house my father built. Such was the norm for the people I grew up with.
We moved to Johnson County, Kansas in 1997 and have learned the ways of transition and relocation watching many friends come and go usually due to job changes. I’ll tell you what- it doesn’t get any easier. Moving is painful for the ones moving and the ones saying goodbye.
Recently we experienced this again when the Prins family relocated to the Cincinnati area after spending the last 9 years in Overland Park and as members of Redeemer. I don’t mean to slight the dozens of other Redeemer families who have come and gone over the past decade because each one has been a special part of our fellowship and are missed, but Chip, Jo and children were a plugged in, deeply routed leadership family that has faithfully lived through many of Redeemer’s growing pains. We’re only 15 years old as a church and less than 12 on our current property. It’s hard for me to remember when the Prins family wasn’t an active part of our church. Moving stinks. That’s what I think.
If I had time I would develop a more technical theology of moving. Certainly God called for Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. They were supposed to subdue the earth and exert dominion over it, for the glory of God. Such activity would necessitate moving, but there is something different about moving this side of the Fall, don’t you think? Abraham was called to leave Ur to go to the promised land and it was viewed as a great act of faith. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for many years, much of this time can be characterized as painful and troubling. There are other moves in the bible, like when Mary and Joseph had to leave the Jerusalem metroplex to protect the child Jesus. It’s hard to find examples of moving that do not include relationship stress and strain. Moving is often cited as one of life’s biggest stresses when surveys are done.
Why is this so? Why is moving so hard? For the people moving, it means a journey into the unknown often without the support of good friends and family. Leaving a place where there are deep relationships to start all over somewhere else is an anxious thing. Moving can also include a painful situation they are leaving, perhaps some unresolved issues or bad memories. Sometimes, like in the case of the Prins family, it’s hard to understand why God would bring about circumstances that seem to necessitate a move, especially when life seems so settled and fulfilling on the whole. For the people saying goodbye to a moving friend or family it means realizing you may never see your friend(s) again in this life, which sounds extreme, but is the truth in many cases. There are many complex and sometimes conflicting feelings that assail everyone involved in a relationship with the ones who are moving.
Watching the Prins family transition to Cincinnati was especially trying for our family, our youngest sons Jordan and Doug are best buddies. It really hit me the week after Jo and the kids moved to Cincinnati and the time of the worship service for the Children’s Church kids to “follow the flag” had come. Instead of our Jordan finding Doug Prins and skipping out together, there was Jordy- kind of lonely looking as he walked out without his best bud. That was hard to watch, I kid you not.
It’s true that Christians are bound by an everlasting bond and heaven will bring many bright eternal reunions. It’s true that email, wireless phones, and Facebook help us stay connected with our friends who have moved, but it’s not really the same as living in community together.
The pains that come with moving are real. Our church is in an area that is quite transient so we’ll experience the strain of moves again and again. One tendency in such an environment could be resistance to developing deep relationships for fear a move will end it. I strongly urge us not to take such a posture or approach. Instead, like the Prins family did in their time at Redeemer, dive in to people. Serve the church and it’s ministries for God’s glory. Live, love, cry, laugh, and wrestle with one another. Life is too short to live in superficial relationships. I can think of few things worse than coming to the end of my earthly days and having no deep, authentic relationships with people because I was given over to a fear of inevitable earthly goodbyes.
None of us know the length of our days on earth let alone the time we will have together as a church family. Let’s live together as a people who know we are a forever family. Maybe we will only have a short time with each other on earth, but don’t we believe what is bound on earth is also bound in heaven? In that case, let’s start binding our relationships no matter what our time at Redeemer may be and let us also look forward to a time when we’ll live together in unbroken fellowship never having to say goodbye again.