The Spiritual Discipline of Not Staying Put

Instead of planting roots, what if God wants us to have wings?

According to the 2011 Census, the average American will move approximately 11 times in their life, more if they're in the military. One year, my family and I moved more than 100 times. We'd sold everything and moved onto a boat, which would become our floating abode for the next year. Boys (and men) love adventure—that's what John Eldredge says in Wild at Heart. So surely my four sons and husband would thrive at sea, traveling from port to port, never knowing what new challenges we'd face each day.

It turns out boys (and maybe this is true for men too) do love adventure. But they like it best when there's a safe harbor to return to. Like the kind a home provides. And by that I mean a home built on a foundation, not the floating kind.

I discovered this truth in the course of house hunting after our live-aboard year had ended. When we asked our sons which house they liked best of the ones we were considering, Jackson, then 12, sighed and said, "I just want a place that stays a place."

Even though our boat had served us well, providing shelter night after night no matter where we tied up, it didn't satisfy his intrinsic need for roots. Being transient takes its toll. To wake up every day, never knowing what the next dock will look like or who your neighbors will be, creates a type of "adventure fatigue." Even the hardiest voyagers crave the familiar.

Our son's deep need for a sense of place took me by surprise. I've spent much of my adult life enduring the pain of God prying my fingers loose from the places I called home. The first one was the worst. We'd bought a house soon after getting married and quickly grew our family, and in the eight years that followed, we became immersed in our community, our church, and the local schools, all within an hour of our extended families. Our roots sank deep.

But then a much-needed job surfaced, and it was time to leave. The day I drove out of town, the life I'd known receded in the rearview mirror. If my heart was a flower, it had been yanked violently from the ground. Would I survive the transplant, much less ever flourish again?

Just as we were settling into our new city, a house fire displaced us once again. Only this time, we underwent the especially difficult experience of not only losing our "place" but all of our stuff with it. After this, I vowed never to let myself become emotionally attached to a home or my possessions again. It was the fire that made 100 ports possible.

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