Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Merits of Setting Down Roots

We live in a global society like none other before this age. Air travel, video conferencing, and social networking change the way we do business around the world. It’s becoming more and more rare that you’ll pick up that gold watch from your employer after 25 years of faithful service. No one bats an eye if you grew up, went to college, and had jobs in different states. Let me take a moment to challenge this mindset. Consider this: the community you’re a part of will be worse off if you move.

The idea that God brings people into our lives for a season has never sat well with me. I understand the fact that, if they’re fellow believers, we’ll be reunited for eternity, but what about this side of Heaven? 

I hate making new friends. I’m the kind of guy that likes to keep a small circle of quality relationships. I’ll make acquaintances all day long, but to truly and intentionally set out to make a friend requires effort, vulnerability, time- and it has to be a two way street. I feel like my efforts are wasted when the other guy is content with being pleasant acquaintances. And it seems to get harder as time goes by. In college, it was relatively easy- you lived with other people all the time, your weeknights and weekends were accommodating to community living- but on the adult side of the world you have to swap Outlook calendar events, check with your wife, plan things 3-4 weeks out and the process has a lot more hurdles than it used to. Therefore, relationships progress more slowly. Then, when you least expect it, you get the news that your new friend got a new job half way across the country. Now you keep up with him on facebook and you’re back at square one.

I get it- In this economy, you have to work where the jobs are. Relocating can be a necessary part of taking care of your family and there is obviously no shame in that. But what if we viewed our work as more of a means rather than an end? What if we made a commitment to our communities that, so much as it depends on us, we’re here for the long haul? Suddenly, you’re looking at a whole new scenario- one in which lifelong friendships are part of our weekly routine in more intimate ways than just seeing a status update from someone you used to know.

All these thoughts came to me the other day when my wife and I were walking out of the hospital, having just visited friends of ours who were celebrating the arrival of their son. I thought to myself, "Will we be at his wedding?" I wonder what it would be like to be able to say to him that it’s been an honor to be part of his life and that of his family through all these years... all the lunches, gun shows, camping and hunting trips that I might share with his father and him, and hopefully, my sons. It’s a picture of community that I feel very strongly about- being part of people’s daily lives for many, many years, sharing life in both the hard times and the good, and encouraging one another in our walks with Christ, in our marriages, and everything else under the sun.

It’s a glimpse of what we’ll one day share in Heaven- a community like we’ve never known. Even though we live in a flawed place in which people move in and out of our lives, its enough to make me stop and think. Is moving across the country for a dream job is really more important than staying in a community that needs me in the same way I need it?

Hopefully, you've got a close circle of men that you rely on to help shape you- and you in turn are a part of sharpening them. And let me be clear on this- I'm referring to relationships that actually challenge you on a regular basis. I can't really make a solid argument for sticking around for a few guys you golf with instead of accepting great promotion in another time zone. Taking the initiative to develop meaningful relationships now could be the difference between a failed marriage or an abandoned faith seven years from now. Long term benefits are the result of a long term commitment.

If you're on the fence about this, weighing what you'll get out of it versus what you'd gain by following work across the country, you're probably asking the wrong question. You've got a unique set of perspectives and qualities that people around you can greatly benefit from- and sure they could benefit from those in Tampa or Portland but remember what I said about the two way street? Those guys need you as much as you need them. A community should feel the pain of losing your physical presence- and they will if you're involved in their lives. I often take the meaning of John 15:13 to the full extent of actually dying for my friends, but laying down our lives for another out of love can look different that catching a bullet.

I'm dependent on my Christian brothers to keep the faith, to keep growing, and to help reveal my blind spots. The honest ones will tell you the same is true for them. I also know that the quality and depth of relationships deepen with intentionality (not time) over time. It's a counter-cultural idea but it's one that deserves thought. At a very minimum, you owe that to your guys.

You may also like:
Perspectives on Failure
Guy's Night
Living a Man's Story
What I Look for When I'm Hiring Someone

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