Rootedness in a Transient World

When I was married for six and a half years, I realized we had moved seven times. Eight for me if you count moving in with my wife when we first got married. Throughout my life (and including my various undergraduate moves) I have moved house roughly eighteen times. It almost feels as if I’ve become nomadic, moving with my food source…of course the “food source” in this analogy refers to various degree programs and the search for cheap housing (but not cheap housing, if you know what I mean).

moving_boxes

On top of changing houses, my wife and I have been in three different countries on two different continents in the last few years. I might as well be in the military. (Okay, I know that I wouldn’t do well in the military, but you get the point.)

What I long for at this point is a place, somewhere I can settle down with my family where we can become stable members of the community. Or, from another angle, I want rest: rest from the upheaval that comes with moving, rest from the effort that entering a new community requires, rest from feeling torn between where I was and where I am.

Of course, as I mentioned, I don’t see this coming my way any time soon. And, if I’m honest with myself, this sort of settled rest may well make me unhappy in other ways, such as feeling guilty for having too much. I find myself drawn to Jesus’ declaration to some would-be followers, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man [=Jesus] has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 9:58). Still, the longing for place and rest persists, whatever objections I may raise. In this way, I am not alone.

The Bible (in both the Old and New Testament) recognizes this need for place and rest. However, it also affirms the elusive quality of these things in the here and now. One place where these themes are clearly brought out is in the book of Hebrews (one of the lesser read books in the New Testament).

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents” (Hebrews 11:8-9a).

Earlier, the author discusses the entry of the Israelites into the promised land under Joshua in terms of rest. Joshua, he claims, did not ultimately lead the Israelites into rest (as the book of Judges abundantly illustrates) but rather the rest was still to come (Hebrews 4:8).

For the the New Testament generally, true place and rest will come, but only with the end, when the earth is made new and we dwell with God in his city. As Hebrews says about Abraham, “he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

So, yes, we may long for true place and rest, but this longing will not always be frustrated. The New Testament holds out this hope to us in the hands of Jesus Christ.

Ben Edsall

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