Even though I’ve been out of school for a year now, I am once again going through the process of transitioning out of one place and into a new place. The difference this time is that I’m not anticipating coming back here. It’s of course possible that I’ll be at the Divinity School at Duke in a year or so, but at least for now, it seems like I’m saying good-bye to people I won’t ever live with again. As challenging as the year has been, so much of it has been a good challenge, something that has changed me significantly. Even while I’m excited for spending the summer in New Mexico, I’m already sad to start thinking that my time is up here. In a little over a month, I’ll be gone.
I’ve spent most of my life living with the same 4 other people, and certainly in the same state and near all those same people. The only significant exceptions to that were 6 weeks in Philadelphia and my 10 months here. Just like when I left Philly, when I realized how much those relationships meant to me and that I didn’t want to not have them around, living here has begun to cause the same feelings. Not just with my housemates, but with the kids in our neighborhood, my piano students, my church, and my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew. I didn’t think I would feel so torn about leaving.
Stability. That’s the word that comes to my mind when I reflect on what all this says to me. Moving from place to place seems exciting, but in the end it contributes to instability in our lives. I haven’t missed home a lot this year mostly because it’s a stable presence; I know that I’m going back there and will see many of the same people again. Our lives crave stability, I think, and are hurt by too much instability. One of the most powerful witnesses of the Rutba House is its committment to being a stable place in the neighborhood for the forseeable future. In the midst of gentrification, of divorces and drugs, violence, unreliable parents, this family of disciples has said “no” to all kinds of temptations and options in the name of stability. Stability frees this community from the burden of decision making and overwhelming choices. It redirects their vision towards the long-term goal of transformation, not immediate results. It resists the urge for efficiency, and partakes in what I call a theology of inefficiency.
I don’t think it’s wrong to move around a little bit and find your vocation, but as I’ve been learning here, it takes a lot more sacrifice and dedication to commit to a place and a people. But, “know that your labor is not in vain,” says St. Paul, for you will receive a just reward. I’ve been reading through the letters to the Corinthians a lot recently, and have been struck by the reward. As I’ve been reading “Suprised by Hope” (by N.T. Wright), he describes this reward not as a prize that we work for, but rather as the consequence of our good labor for Christ. In the same way that you practice the piano for hours and hours a day for the reward of being able to play the most beautiful music, or train for a race where the prize is the glorious consequence of months of training and dedication to the work itself and not the prize. Stability is the same way. It’s a labor for the Lord, when done well and intentionally, and comes with mothers, brothers, sisters, houses, with persecutions, in this life, and in the age to come eternal life.