Every couple of months, I get a certain impulse; I start looking online for cheap flights to anywhere that has sun. I imagine taking my girls or my whole family or my girlfriends on this sunny getaway. I tell my husband that I cannot keep going, I need sun, we need to do something to shake things up. By now, he is quite used to the dramatics of his wife and his three daughters, but he’s a good sport, so we almost always end up taking a daytrip or at least taking the kids somewhere different, even if it’s just the riverbank.
I grew up moving around every couple of years, which helped prepare me for adulthood and my marriage. My husband and I carried on that transient lifestyle; we seek to live radically for Christ, and our desire is to go to all the nations and make disciples. But unlike our daytrips, we aren’t just moving because of my impulses, on a whim, or without counsel. We are moving purposefully, without rash decision-making. We are called to share God’s Kingdom with the lost. We want to be free to go where He wants us.
Once my husband and I started having children, we saw the need to find a more permanent place to live. In my heart, that meant choosing a country but not necessarily putting down deep roots. It took us a couple of years to discern which country God was leading us to; yet once we moved, we quickly saw it wasn’t permanent—we had started church-planting but lived too far away from the church to be effective in our ministry. We prayed for God to lead us closer. I knew that if we did move, it would mean perhaps a more permanent move. It was too far out from the big city to be anything else.
As we prayed about it, my heart trembled. I have never settled down or had deep roots for very long. I feared dedicating myself to one place and being rejected without a way out. What if I never found a friend? What if I poured myself into this city with nothing to show for it in the end? I feared for my children. It’s not just my husband and me; we could survive anywhere. But I have four little bodies depending on us to care for them in every way. What if they never settled here or rejected God as a result of our move? I feared for our living situation. What if we moved into a neighborhood and it was awful?
As always, God opened up the right doors. He led us to the right house, where my husband and I both walked in knowing it was the one for us. He opened the doors for us to move. He used our church in mighty ways to help clean our new home, feed us, help us renovate. We moved here a little over a year ago. I still worry about the same things, but God is faithful. He gives peace. He speaks through His people and shows me kindnesses I never deserve.
As I shared with a friend in a different city about my worries over the children she reminded me, “God wouldn’t send you guys out here and not have a plan for the kids, forgetting them.” Of course not. He hasn’t forgotten them. He has a plan and a journey for them and will provide. I needed that reminder from her because I had forgotten. Of course God has them in His hands! I don’t know what’s ahead of them, but I do know that I can pray for them and teach them as much as I can.
Friendships and evangelism are happening differently. I don’t feel the urgency of knowing I’m only going to be here for a couple years and need to make deep friendships now. I have a peace I’ve not had before, believing God wants us here longer and we can take things at a slower pace. I can invest slowly, enjoying learning about new people like sipping on a steaming hot mug of tea. And when I feel the desire for change, I can simply take that daytrip!
My fears of staying in one place for a long time haven’t been proven untrue. I don’t know if I will pour and never see fruit, I don’t know how my children will be, and I don’t know if I will be rejected. These things may all come to fruition. But deeper than my fears is a conviction that in order to build up God’s church, we need to stay rooted in this community and spread out our net as wide as possible through schools and kindergartens and work and going to the market every week. We live in an area that doesn’t move very fast and is not transient. It has history well over 1000 years old that we are able to still physically see. People don’t move in and out of this city. In order to establish trust and relationships, we will need to stay a bit longer.
And bigger than my fears is a kind Father who speaks personally to me and to my heart. He doesn’t leave me in the lurch, listening to my pitiful “what ifs”. He meets me where I am. I have a great God about whom is said: …for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me…God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Psalm 57).
As I start to dig my roots into this slower-paced city, I will cling to these promises. I will talk to my understanding of what it means to work in His kingdom and say, “Caitlin, ‘Go’ sometimes means ‘stay’.” Staying for me means trusting in Him. He will take care of it all. I may still feel the impulse to go and find some sun, but the stirring of my heart says that I need to always come back here, as long as God says, “Stay”.
What keeps you from wanting to stay? What are your fears in staying somewhere too long? How is God speaking to these areas of your heart?