A few months ago I had this idea that I jotted down and had not yet taken the time to develop. Well, I feel like writing something, but I do not feel like working on one of the papers I need to write for my current master’s course. Therefore, I will try to flesh out my idea a little.
Many families are like trees, hence the Family Tree analogy that is so handy for tracking ancestry and visualizing heritage. Family trees can be beautiful expressions of the love between a husband and wife that bloomed and grew into the branches and leaves of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Trees are typically firmly rooted into the soil where they were planted. Their roots can be deep and wide in their particular place. Generations of a family, branches that split off to form new trees, can grow together into a grove in some places. For these families, place is a very important part of their identity. Their place is a part of who they are. These people spend their entire lives living and growing near other family members and friends they have lived by, worked with, and relaxed with for years. The connection to their place is very strong and very much a part of who they are.
A pastor’s family is like a potted plant. Plants bloom and grow like trees, but they can be uprooted and moved to another location. A pastor’s family cannot be so firmly rooted as a tree (military families understand this, as well). A pastor is called to serve a community of believers, yet it is not always the community where he grew up. If he met his wife outside of his hometown, then she often has to leave the community where she grew up, too. Pastors and their families can often feel like nomads. However transient and mobile a potted plant can be, it can still grow and thrive wherever it is nurtured and cared for.
Though place is very important, Christians know best how place can be lost. Abraham was called by God to leave his father’s house and journey to a new land that God would reveal to him. The Israelites were removed from that land by God, through the hands of the Babylonians and Assyrians, and when they finally returned they found it to be nothing like it had been before. Christians in war-torn nations, or those subject to persecuting conditions, often move and never return to their land of origin.
Pastors and their families move around, and though some stay in places for a long time, others do not. But by staying connected to the True Vine, the Living Water, Christ, His people can live and thrive anywhere. As the old hymn says, “I am but a stranger here, Heaven is my home.”
So, for all those pastors and their families that are in transition, moving from one place to another, from one familiar community of believers to a new one, we remember the words of St. Peter and make them our own: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Cling to Christ as you mourn your losses, adjust to your new homes, and make new memories together.