Nearly two months ago my family moved into a new (to us) home, only a few miles from our previous home in Salem, Oregon. The process of looking, then selling and buying, happened so fast I’ve spent these past two months processing its significance.
The obvious question you might have is: Why would I go through the hassle of moving just a few miles during a pandemic? Doesn’t my family have enough things going on between leading a church and doing distance learning with our children? (Of course we do). There are some particulars I could share, but my goal in this piece is to sketch out a bigger picture of why we have a new house to call home.
In a variety of ways I believe American society is breaking down. Though I was not alive during The Civil War or the Vietnam protests or the Watts riots in Los Angeles, I see nothing but division in the lead up to this year’s Presidential election. David Brooks recently wrote a lengthy article on the breakdown of trust in America. 73% of adults under 30 believe that “most of the time, people just look out for themselves.” Or there’s a recent study stating that 15% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats thought the country would be better off if some of their political foes “just died.” It is not hyperbole to say that many aspects of society are falling apart.
While I could decry this reality, ultimately I want to do what I can, where I can. This doesn’t mean my actions will change the world, but they might change a life, which is a good place to start.
In the earliest years of churches being built in America, pastors would live in a parsonage located on the church property. Though this is far less common today, I have always seen my house as an extension of the church ministry. Some of my most significant moments of ministry over the last 6 years happened in our previous home. We have always wanted our home to be a gathering place where people can build relationships with God and with one another.
The book of Genesis begins with the creation account in chapters 1 and 2, highlighting God’s creation of literally everything. Within this is an important detail on how God created. The Genesis account of creation is broken up into two parts, one big picture creation (chapter 1), one localized (chapter 2). The first account is expanding and borderless, the second account is in a garden. We must take note of both creation accounts, not just the God who makes the heavens and the earth, but also the God who makes man and places him in a garden.
Why does this matter? It’s easy to see God as far beyond us, powerful enough to create everything, but not involved in the intimate details. For too many, God exists in the big picture but never enters their own local garden. God is a concept, not a tangible reality; He’s in the sky, not inside the fence.
Eugene Peterson describes localized spirituality in this way:
“Biblical spirituality/religion has a low tolerance for ‘great ideas’ or ‘sublime truths’ or ‘inspirational thoughts’ apart from the people and places in which they occur. God’s great love and purposes for us are all worked out in the messes in our kitchens and backyards.”
(Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 75)
What our society often longs for is a utopian existence where we have all of our desires met, where we never have to interact with those unlike ourselves. In making this our goal we divorce ourselves from the reality of the places God has rooted us right now, and in the end, miss out on the ways he longs to meet us. God’s work is only completed where God places us.
Yes, moving into this new home is about a place for my family, but this oasis among the firs is also about a garden-like place where we invite others to find their home with others in the Lord’s presence. May the Lord use this home to root us and many others to Himself.