moving target


    By the time I got to worship yesterday morning, I had already run a couple of errands, made sure the DVR was recording the World Cup match, made plans to spend part of the afternoon at the Food Truck Fiesta at the Durham Farmers’ Market Pavilion, and sketched out a bit of a plan for what the week ahead might look like. We begin a strange sort of familial migration this week as we prepare to make room for Ginger’s parents to move in with us. Her father’s Alzheimer’s is digressing (I find it hard to say, “progressing”) to the point where her mother cannot care for him alone, so we are all going to do this together. “This” involves selling their house in Birmingham and our current house here in Durham and buying another house with the room we need.

    I sat down in a pew by myself, surrounded by all that was swirling around me, and was caught, once again, by the serendipitous intersection of lectionary and life as I heard one sentence from Luke 9 in particular: “”Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The words jumped out of context, out of nowhere, and out at me, offering a moment of challenge and comfort.

    If I think of my life in themes, I can identify one quickly: I am a moving target. I have moved most all of my life. What stability I have known has come only since Ginger and I married in 1990, and even then we have lived in five houses (soon to be six) in twenty years. I am halfway through my fifty-fourth year and moving into residence number forty-something: I know from moving, trust me. I can look back at my life and see how I learned to be resilient and even extroverted to survive year after year of new addresses and acquaintances, how I became someone whose allegiance is somewhat scattered geographically and someone who can find a way to land most anywhere. And I also see how I have grown with stunted roots that still struggle to sink deep wherever I am.

    When Jesus said those words, he had “set his face towards Jerusalem,” as the King James says, becoming increasingly aware of the darkening horizon that heralded his death. He could see how the dominoes were beginning to fall and he was done with small talk and negotiations. It was time, period.

    Our first domino falls this week as we move out of our home for the last two years in our Old West Durham neighborhood that we have come to love and schlep all our stuff two miles to Old North Durham and what will become our new home. In a week or so, we will leave this place for someone else to inhabit and then move Ginger’s folks at the end of the month. The stakes are not as high as they were for Jesus and they are life-altering at the same time. As I heard the verses, I began to write furiously in the little notebook I keep with me. I will quote directly:

    I am moving two miles.
    I’m putting down deeper roots.
    I’m learning what family means in new ways –
    and I’m moving.

    For the first time in my life, moving is a way to rootedness because I’m moving to make room for my family. I am moving – we are moving to make a home for those we love, those who are leaving their home of forty-five years and the city they have lived in their entire lives because of this insidious disease that is erasing my father-in-law one swipe at a time. In all my moves, this is the first time I have moved to make room, to make a place for someone. We have know idea what will happen next, but we do know it will happen to us together. As much as I detest the packing and unpacking, I am doing a different thing this time though the motions are much the same.

    As Ginger unpacked the text in her sermon, she made a statement that caught me off guard. “We must remember,” she said, “that grieving is somewhat of a luxury.” I’m sure my head turned like our Schnauzers when they hear an unusual sound. I had never heard that sentence before, yet it rang with resonance in both my head and heart. She was speaking the kind of deep truth rooted in the wisdom of Ecclesiastes: there is a time for grieving and a time for moving, for doing the task at hand. She went on to say grieving was also a necessity and I heard yet another of the creative tensions of faith within which we are called to live: the necessity and the luxury of grief. We see it as we come to the Communion Table together where we both remember Christ’s death and we feed one another. The grief is as real as the needs around us; we must attend to both.

    One of the joys I am finding in these days is the almost continuous reminder that we are not alone in our sojourning. Friends, church members, those we have hired to help us do different things, and even people we don’t know have been gracious and helpful in ways that remind me this is not a solo performance. Our new home feels destined to be a place full of hope and voices simply based on all the folks who are helping us get there. I stand inside and the house seems to beg for people to be eating and talking around the table, or singing on the porch, chasing fireflies in the backyard as often as we can arrange it. We are moving to make room. What I am beginning to see is the call is to make room for more than just our family.



    1. Twice in our married life Janice and I have added a family member by welcoming in someone beyond our nuclear family. Both times we were blessed well beyond the difficulties the new person occasioned.
      I especially treasure the last seven months of my mother-in-law’s life when we had her in our home. Although she was sometimes difficult, she was also a good sport and enjoyed being teased as much as I enjoyed teasing her. I still miss her almost every day.

    2. Thank you for putting this all into words. What a beautiful journey you’re on. Blessings on you in your move.

    3. Blessings to you both. If only more people were able – emotionally – to take the kind of steps you are taking to do the same…

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