The ache of place

The idea of PLACE sort of blows my mind sometimes. That’s probably a weirdly deep thing to say, like when I say about babies, “It’s so crazy how they don’t exist and then nine months later, they’re, like, a person!!!” Yeah, duh. (But, doesn’t the baby thing confound you sometimes? The perfection of little fingers and how my milk--that I don’t even know how to make in my head but my body does!--is all T-Rexy needs to have to his life sustained? It’s remarkable.)

That’s how I feel about place. How is it that so many people I love can live far from me? How is it possible that I have spent my life in very separate places and I can’t seem to push them together no matter how much I squeeze them. Syracuse will not sit next to Abilene on any map ever. San Francisco and Philadelphia will always be thousands of miles away from each other.

And yet, my husband can get on a flight on Sunday night, show up in New York on Monday morning, attend a couple of meetings, eat meals with his dad and our dear friend Ray, and somehow show back up at our house in time for dinner and bedtime Tuesday night. It’s extraordinary. And it’s confusing.

We ache for the friends and family we’ve left in every city we’ve touched our feet in, shopped for groceries in, wrote rent checks in, played football with friends in. Each place holds sweetness and ache and prayer.

Sometimes I can’t imagine how separate they all are from one another. How each place we’ve left has remained living, lives going on without us...

Last Friday night the girls I met during their 8th grade year at Radnor Middle School attended their Senior Prom. They were stunning, beautiful. (I know because Cat, who now leads the Young Life ministry I left behind in Philly, texted me pictures of them with their dates.) I sat rocking my baby during August’s naptime and quietly stared at those faces I love. I can’t be there. And, honestly, I believe God has blessed my absence.

But, for all the sweetness of building a new community, there’s the loss of the community I once helped build. I feel it often. And I’m feeling it tonight.

So I ask the question again: What does it mean to be committed to stability, when place is shifty and (painfully!) stuck in the same spot on the map as it always was?

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