Becoming a Homeowner, The Gift of Stability, and The Desire to Wander

Lindsay and I purchased our first home a few weeks ago. People, when they hear about it, usually say, "Congratulations!" But I was not all that excited. It's a house. To me that means that it comes with a lot of strings attached. Now, I will have to spend my days worrying about how to take care of it. When something major breaks, I will have to have the money to fix it. Living in town means that I will have to take better care of my lawn. There are a lot of burdens that come with owning a house. Home ownership seems more like a mixed drink, a money pit mixed with emotional and physical drain, that when imbibed will consume my life.

Becoming a homeowner was something that I never intended to do. I had hoped that I could be a wanderer, to see the world, to continue moving and never settle down, meet many different and interesting people, and to have some exciting bohemian adventures along the way. Now, that dream is ending, and I am establishing a home. I guess it is about time with four children and another one on the way, but I imagined that we could be some happy traveling hippy clan.

To be honest, I have always had this arrogant streak that thought that not owning a home was more spiritual. I still wrestle with it, especially when I am having trouble on an improvement project at the house. Jesus, as far as we know, did not own a home, and, of course, I want to be like Jesus. I assumed that it would be more Christlike to not have the worries of a house in my life. All the time, I missed the point that being like Jesus is more than being carefree, having long hair, wearing sandals, and not owning a home. I have tried all that, and it has not made me more of who God has designed me to be. Being like Jesus is about taking on the characteristics of Jesus in all areas of my life.

John wrote, "By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" [1 John 2:5-6 (ESV)]. To be his followers, we need to walk the way he walked. This doesn't mean that I have to walk with some gansta limp because I assume that Jesus had a vicious gansta limp to show how cool he was. It is about an attitude of love in our lives. John goes on to explain, "Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" [1 John 2:10-11 (ESV)]. John is not just talking about our biological brothers and sisters; he is talking about neighbors and everyone that we encounter. We can walk like Jesus while we are wandering sojourners, and we can walk like Jesus when we are planted firmly in a community. Each one has its own drawbacks and unique sets of opportunities. The key to walking like Jesus is to love all the people around us.

With that said, I have realized that my calling is to be planted firmly within a community. You might have a similar calling. Then again, you might be called to be a wanderer, or you might be ignoring your calling completely. Within that specific calling, we must never forget our larger calling: we are called to love everyone around us.

I have to learn to shift gears and look at how to love God while being firmly planted in one location. Rose Marie Berger wrote in her article, The Art of Householding, "The 'gift of stability' is considered the fourth vow in Orthodox and Benedictine monastic life. Poverty, chastity, and obedience are the 'evangelical vows' that make one radically available to those in need of the gospel. Stability, as Thomas Merton put it, means to 'find the place that God has given you and take root there.'"

In Wendell Berry's 10 Hopes, he explains, "Love your neighbors - not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have." That, my friends, is much easier said than done.

You might be called to put your roots down. It might be to start going to church or stop church shopping and become part of a flawed spiritual community. Flawed because every spiritual community is. It might be to become part of an organization despite not agreeing with them on every point. We don't even agree with ourselves from five years ago on every point. It might be to stop wandering and to permanently move into a community despite it not having everything you want. Out here in the rural Midwest, no town will have everything we want. Whatever the case, putting your roots down is about building healthy and authentic relationships with the people around you. Together, we can do much more than we can do alone.

We need to invest in relationships. Our world in five years will only be as good as the investment we make in it today. You want a better church, a better organization, a better town, a better state, and a better nation, it starts by building a better relationship with your neighbor.

It has never been my desire to ever be firmly planted in a community. One thing that my wife has always blessed me with in our marriage, despite all of my kicking, screaming, and arguing against it, is stability. In this case, like many times in my relationship with her, I must realize that what she wants is actually better for us. That is the beauty of good relationships. It is not always about our individual selves, but in chasing after collective happiness we will find that we are happy individually.