By Gloria Gaither
© Gloria Gaither.
All rights reserved.
In a mobile culture, physically, vocationally, and spiritually, it has been delightfully refreshing to discover a small book about a huge topic: THE WISDOM OF STABILITY by Jonathan Wison-Hartgrave. Founder of the Rutba House community and associate minister at St John’s Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, Wilson-Hartgrave addresses an ancient truth about which the current popular Christian conversations are for the most part silent: the strength and power in staying put.
Never has the church talked more about “community” and practiced it less. Living in community has been pretty much reduced to a 20-minute coffee-and-donut break in the lobby of the church or a few volunteer hours in the church neighborhood food pantry.
But actually staying in one place, working out our calling among family and neighbors who know us only too well and whose warts and foibles we would rather not have to deal with over time is an almost lost concept. We love the “go into all the world” words of Jesus, but are not so fond of the “go back to your village and live it out” mandates. By contrast the whole idea of “ministry” and” vocation” is too often “go away to college” so we can “go where God sends us”, usually meaning that if we don’t move around every few years (or months), we are not really ministering or being successful in our chosen professions.
This convicting (and might I say also confirming) book addresses the idea that like a tree, there should be as much below the ground in rooting as there is above the ground in branching if the tree is to survive the storms of life.
It shouldn’t be as novel as it seems to be that some of us are called to make homes that kids can come home to no matter how far away they roam. The author points out that “the practice of stability, then, is an exercise in putting down roots. A good tree bears good fruit…but we are product-oriented people, eager to skip over the process and enjoy the apple without attending to the soil and sun and roots that help it grow.”
It seems that our culture is in its death throws because “nobody’s home.” Kids without parents, houses with no “familying”, neighborhoods with no “neighbors”, churches that are not “sanctuary” for those who need a safe and consistent harbor. Maybe, just maybe, some of us could pledge to stay put for the rest of us.