I don’t think God created us to be relationally nomadic.
Over the past 6+ years of marriage, Jake and I have lived in 4 cities, 2 countries, and at least 8 apts/duplexes/houses. Our three kids have not known to live in the same place for more than a year.
God has blessed us with caring family- both biological and spiritual. They have been supportive as we have moved from place to place, and have helped us work through the cycle of excitement, loneliness, anxiety, questioning of decision to move, and celebration of settling each time we move. The trouble is that by the time we move, we have only just started to build those kind of relationships where one feels known by the other.
My heart desires sustained relational community. Our growing family loves one another and we have a ton of fun playing and working together. But, Jake and I need adult friends to do all of those “one anothers” with…. encourage, dream, argue, discuss, sharpen, love, play, work, minister. Our kids need friendships that endure; they need other adults in their life whom they can build trusting relationships with and go to when they need non-parent advice or encouragement.
Each time we move, we have to start over. We get to a new city where no one knows us. Although we are initially excited to “start over” and “develop new relationships” and “explore new discussions” and “experience a new place in the world”, we find ourselves longing for familiarity, for deep relationships, for people who know us and have helped create us. As we move around, we are beginning to see how different people in our lives have helped us to change and grow in certain ways. How thankful we are for that.
But we just want to be rooted in one place, with relationships that will be constant. We want to learn what it is like to be faithful to a community, and them to us. We want to make traditions with a group of people. We want people to know and love our quirkyness- our odd parenting style, our nonsystematic theology, our desire for peacemaking and environmental care, and our annoying way of questioning everything and always feeling a need to stir the pot. We’ve discovered that those characteristics are not often welcomed.
I’m thankful for the internet, which allows me to stay connected with some of those friends we’ve made. I get to have “discussions”, read about their lives, and see pictures of their kids. But you know what I want? To play games in our living room. To stay up late on New Years Eve, with all our kids piled in another room. To create family friendships where all the kids feel like brothers and sisters. For my kids to have “second moms and dads”. To know a city with familiarity. To be able to drop by someone’s house, unannounced but genuninely welcomed. To be able to say, “I’m not sure I believe that” and not be looked upon as a heretic. To have my gifts welcomed and utilized in a faith community. To make dinner together.
Relationships like that take time- people in one place (or a common place) for a long time. Do people even do that anymore? I don’t know, but it’s something I’m longing for.
I’m relationally exhausted. I’m tired of trying. I’m tired of starting over. I’m happy to do the hard, long work of sustaining significant relationships, but I’m weary of beginnings. And I’m uncertain of the ability to sustain significant virtual relationships.
Las night as I went to bed with this ache in my heart, I felt something inside me say, “Tiff, you feel this weariness because I didn’t create you to be relationally nomadic.” But what happens now?