I stepped outside yesterday. It was like a scene from a Stephen King novel: a white-blue mist, blooming across my backyard and passing into my neighbors'. I let the dog back in, ground some coffee beans and sat, sipping my coffee, watching the fog wash the inside of my house with tones of soft blue light.
I thought about a new job offer. It's far away -- on the other side of the world -- and it would be the adventure of a lifetime. But there is so much that I would miss: my home, the friendships I've spent years cultivating since I moved here. At this point I'd just miss Illinois and knowing where things are at by heart and not having to use a GPS to go to the grocery store for milk. I love the familiar. It fills me with a sense of belonging and of home.
God in his mercy grants us new "familiars" wherever we go. I remember when I first moved here, I was a shaky college freshman who had never been away from home for longer than few weeks at most. I remember setting up my room and feeling so helpless and lonely and lost, sitting in a dorm room surrounded by people I didn't know.
Looking back on it now, that seems silly. The city I was once afraid of has become my proud home. The strangers I didn't know at the time became brothers, sisters, lovers, enemies, and friends for life. Even at the worst, it was okay because even if we were enemies, at least we weren't strangers. I still knew them at heart. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt; it instills confidence that we are on the path God intends for us to be on.
You see, familiarity implies that we are part of a larger body, parts that make up a whole. Darrell Cosden writes in his book The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work that "Human identity includes our relationship with nature and work, but it also includes, most intimately, our relationships with other humans. Adam is simply not complete without another beside him. ...This includes the breadth of our social relationships. For it is simply not good for someone to be, or work, completely alone."
Now, this doesn't mean that we are to plant ourselves where it is comfortable and work until we die. In fact, God's commandment to his creation immediately prior to this was to "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply." We are called to our work, but we cannot be the best versions of ourselves, but we can't be that person in a vacuum. Wherever we go, we are called to perform our work in community.
And that brings us back to the familiar. The reason we find beauty in surroundings we love is because we are fulfilling part of God's original plan for our lives: to reflect one facet of his image amidst myriad others, together painting an incomplete image of an invisible God.
I don't know how my future is going to pan out. I've got a lot of love for where I am, but I know that I will find familiarity wherever I go, as long as I perform my work amidst community.
"Castle on the Hill" by Ed Sheeran is a song about ebb and flow, and leaving community and returning to it. Listen to this song and reflect on what it means to be broken off from community and then to return home to it. Do you think we have a responsibility to our communities when we leave? Why or why not?
Coffee is the most familiar thing in the world to me, and the best part is that you probably already share it with friends. Why don't you take some time this week to call up an old friend that you haven't seen in a while and offer to make them coffee while you catch up with some one-on-one time?
Lord, we pray for guidance in our lives. We pray that in the familiar, you grant us peace that passes all understanding when we are deciding whether you want us to stay and work, or whether you want us to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply. And above all, let us reflect your image to the communities you bring us into.
Take a few minutes in the evening, before bed, to step away from your phone, step outside into the night, and meditate on where you are. What brought you to this point in your life? Where do you feel like God is calling you next? When you're finished reflecting, spend a few minutes in prayer asking God these questions. Then, spend two minutes listening, in silence.