2.22.2008

THE HIDDEN COST OF MOVING AROUND

Al Hsu over at The Suburban Christian gave a very nice and thoughtful response to part of my post from earlier this week, which I'll link to here: "Suburban/Urban Musings: Transience and "Relo" Culture". Al's right, by the way: when it comes to how long your neighbors are around, there's probably just as much urban stability as instability, and just as much suburban instability as stability. In fact, while five of the six units to my left and right (both sides of us are row houses cut into three units each) are constantly turning over, the sixth is a multi-generational family that's been there for decades. And there are certainly just as many ways I can be a better neighbor to the people who are here for a spell as the people who have been here awhile.

What I did want to pick up on from Al's post was this notion of transience. As a cold-blooded capitalist pig, I'm a big believer in the free markets and the notion of individualism, or "free agent nation," as one writer put it. However, in making the decision to relocate, one must consider the sometimes hidden costs of moving. And while it is true we are just as likely to err on the other side - valuing our existing community to the point that we are paralyzed from obeying God, stepping out into new spaces, and trusting Him to provide for us there - we often underestimate the importance of relationships and the cost of having to rebuild anew over and over again. Even worse, in our quest for a better life somewhere, we impose a cost on our family members that is in some cases steeper than the one we pay.

Again, please don't misconstrue this as an indictment of people who move. God certainly has a track record of orchestrating large movements of people for His glory, and inertia can be just as much of a sin as serial relocation. And just as we can equally be faithful in serving the transient and the old-timer, we can equally be faithful in moving around or staying put. Sometimes the cost of discipleship is turning down an opportunity in order to stay put, and sometimes the cost of discipleship is saying goodbye to cherished relationships.

But it is a point worth making: when we move, we uproot relationships we have formed, and that is a cost that ought not be underestimated. And, as Al rightly points out, when new neighbors move in, having recently paid that cost, they are in a unique moment to be served by us. Would that, whether we live in the city or the suburbs, we be good neighbors at that moment.
Post a Comment