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The Value of Staying Put

A generation ago, Camden County was a much more stable place. The people you went to school with, worked with and went to church with were the grandchildren of the people with whom your grandparents had done the same. There were exceptions, but mostly you knew the measure of a man or woman because you knew their people and their people knew yours.

            Today, Camden County is a much more transient community. By necessity, many people leave our county every year due to a military or other job transfer, while many others arrive. There is nothing to bemoan here. It is a fact of life.

            Yet, we can let the transient nature of the community effect other areas of life. We can come to look at the greener grass on the other side of the fence and long for those pastures, rather than our own.

For example, someone can look at his husband or her wife and think that it is time for the upgrade. The struggles in the marriage can seem like too much and it would be easier to let the marriage die and then move on to later find another person who doesnít have all those faults of your spouse. The only problem with that plan is whoever you marry next will still be married to you.

This is just one example, but the same can be true for friendships, jobs, church, and even a club or volunteer organization. In time, any relationship may seem like it needs to come to an end. First, I should acknowledge that this is true. If your spouse is abusing you or your children. Set down the newspaper now and set about leaving. If your job is neither fulfilling nor meeting your familyís financial needs, then finish this column and flip back to the classifieds.

But for the rest of us, who are just grumpy, but not abused, there may be something else going on here. Now I know you may be reading this knowing full well that next summer you will be transferred and will be setting up again in a new town. However, this may be speaking more to your marriage or your relationship with a friend who has begun to try your patience. There is a value in becoming more stable in all the essential relationships in your life, especially if you need to move to a new town every few years.

The value in stability is that youíve got stuff you need to deal with. You can deal with it here and now in your current relationships, current job, current church, wherever you find yourself. Or, you can change churches, jobs, husband or wife, and so on always looking for that perfect life. You will not be the exception to the rule. You will make yourself unhappy with an ongoing cast of changing characters, but you will carry yourself into every one of those situations.

The alternative is to deal with the junk. Think your wife is driving you crazy? Imagine how you get on her nerves. Why take the chickenís way out, pulling out emotionally and later physically and seeking a divorce. Why not reinvest in that love of your life and work on your junk together? Itís far cheaper, easier and in the end much more rewarding. I would never have gotten to the twenty-second anniversary my wife and I celebrated last week if each of us hadnít been willing to do the hard work to get there. I am not easy to live with and you, gentle reader, are probably no picnic either. If you are not being abused, stay put. Seek some help. Work on the problems, or you will be doomed to repeat the mistakes with someone else.

If your church isnít everything you dream, it is possible that you need to move. Many people can benefit from finding the right church home. But, no church will be completely right for anyone. Stay put. Stop dating the church and settle down. Once you decide to stay put, more growth can occur than would ever be possible visiting here and there with no spiritual home.

When we stop moving from one place or relationship to another in order to be happy, we admit at least two things: 1) I am part of the problem, 2) this is as good a place as any to work on me. For persons of faith, we know that we are not perfect and that our God who is everywhere will be with us anywhere. Far from freeing us to endlessly roam, this omnipresence of God frees us to be stable.

God is as present here as in that bigger house, better job, and so on. Our true source of strength for the inner work that needs to take place is that Jesus Christ is the solid rock on which our lives can be founded. Then the move is to finding out more about yourself.

When someone drives you crazy, it tells you as much about yourself as the other person. That detail oriented co-worker who brings up the details I didnít handle bothers me because I know I am approximate. The critical person, who never sees the good in anyone, reminds me too much of my own inner critic who sees faults as well but is too pious to say them out loud.

I could continue. But you are smart and are already well ahead of me. You know that no matter where you move the biggest obstacles you face come from not facing your own demons. Just go ahead and admit to yourself that you have fallen short of being the friend, co-worker, or spouse you want to be. Admit that the problem people in your life have to put up with your junk too.

Stay put in the relationships you have and open up the window of your soul to the light of the Holy Spirit. You will never be able to change those other people and situations. The most you can hope for, and this is a bit of a stretch, is that you can significantly change yourself. Then the other problems wonít disappear, they just wonít be quite so all consuming.

This spiritual growth wonít happen if you keep roaming around. Job transfers notwithstanding, whether you move physically or not, you can find the value of stability. Put down some roots, deal with the weeds that pop up, and bloom where you are planted.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.)

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