Inevitably, whenever we return from a trip to Chicago, we pick up the question that’s already been worn threadbare. What are we doing next? We moved to Toronto almost two years ago on what was understood to be a short-term work visa. And though we like it here - and might even wish to stay, that’s a decision that is simply not up to us. To stay permanently, one of us, of course, will need a job. And even if we had work, we’d still have to figure out where, in this expensive city, to live. I won’t deny that I’d rather resolve all the mysteries ahead of us. I definitely crave a clearer picture of what our future looks like. Some days, I have to admit that I want less faith and more sight.
I don’t find it easy to live with these hanging threads of perplexity.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about living in this kind of impermanence – never able to answer if we’re staying or for how long – is that we have five children whose lives trail in the wake of all our decisions. Both Ryan and I feel the heavy weight of this responsibility.
I moved often as a child. Every three years, we drove somewhere new and called it home. And it was never easy. I remember the terrifying experience it was to walk in to school as the new girl, wondering if I’d find someone to sit next to at lunch.
Whenever I didn’t, I buried my head in a good book.
I’m sure much good was learned in my packed up childhood. I learned to make friends quickly. I learned to overcome fear. I learned that anonymity and aloneness weren’t as bad as you think. (And I read a lot of great books. . .)
But in truth, that’s not the life I want for my kids. Am I not revisiting my old ancestral curse of transience on them? What harm will be done to our children in whose future are sure to be some lonely school lunches? Wouldn’t they be better off with the stability of some permanence in their lives?
This is not how the American dream is scripted. Parents aren’t supposed to move when middle and high school loom, not when exclusion and loneliness are hunting for company.
Parents are supposed to stay.
And staying is safe.
These are my parental misgivings about how we’re betraying the common sense wisdom of raising kids.
Or, have we?
Over the last couple of days, I’ve had my nose in the final chapters of Hebrews.
By faith, Abel. . .
By faith, Noah. . .
By faith, Abraham. . .
By faith, Sarah. . .
It seems the only decisions that matter are the faith decisions. The only decisions that please God are the ones inspired by faith.
And faith involves mystery and provokes perplexity. Faith is future-oriented: it wills itself forward through the unknown toward certainties that lay ahead. If we demand answers and guarantees, we can only have them at the exclusion of faith.
Faith is hard, but faith is for our good.
Maybe the best thing any of us gives our kids is this journey of faith. Maybe permanence and belonging, though I would wish them for our family, stay out of reach because we were never meant to find these in a geographical place.
Home isn’t a zip code: home is God’s eternal city.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
We can’t give our children solid answers as to where they’ll be in one year or two. We can’t promise that there isn’t loneliness in their future. And this may not be the safest and most predictable life we could have given them - but then again, how safe is God?
In the journey of faith, with its questions and complexities, we teach our kids to trust and pray, to listen and wait, to move only on the divine go.
And I think they’re soon to learn a truth, which I’m daily forced to reabsorb:
Wherever He leads is good.