God Next Door IV Suburban Nomads on Steroids

Ok, I’m back to doing some reflecting on God Next Door. Chapter 3 looks at the impact of mobility on neighbourhoods – the ability people have and the associated practice of regularly moving house and not staying anywhere for the longer term.

We certainly are a very mobile lot these days, hence Alvin Tofflers’ reference to ‘nomad’s or Fiona Allen’s ‘geographically promiscuous’ definitely ring true. Danelle and I moved 6 times in the first 7 years of our marriage, before settling in the hills for 8 years and then where are now for 4 ½ years.

Until I started reflecting on the idea of neighbourhood mission I had never paid a lot of attention to the value of staying put. In fact the thought of staying somewhere for a long time has always been somewhat abhorrent to me. I like change and enjoy new experiences so the notion of moving house regularly runs thru my head.

I would like to live in the country for a while, I’d like to live overseas for a while. I’d like to try the inner city, another Australian city… you get the idea… I think I will run out of life before I accomplish these things.

As we look at our own small street of 12 houses we see that after nearly 5 years only 3 original families remain and 23 different families have lived in the street. Those who move on generally do so to bigger homes and/or closer to the city. As they have moved investors have bought the houses and now there are more rental properties in the street than before. Its always harder to find motivation to build relationships with short termers.

One of the consequences of this constant mobility is a distinct lack of genuine connection. It takes a long time to get to know people well enough to call them friends or to trust them with your kids. Nomads are people who don’t have baby-sitters for when they want to head out to dinner, or people who don’t have anyone to drop them at the airport when their flight leaves at an odd time. The absence of these simple friendship type links must be difficult. For those of us in churches we tend to have a ready made support network that often makes life somewhat different.

When Geoff & Sherry visited we spoke a lot about the importance of stability in mission – of the need for people to bed down for a very long time if we were going to have influence and effect in neighbourhoods. They used the phrase ‘staying is the new going’, an interesting thought for those of us who would prefer to move regularly.

As one who reads the real estate section each week and surfs property websites, the idea of staying put is both invigorating and disturbing. It is invigorating in that if we around for long enough, we may actually get to see some of the things we dream of start to happen. In my darker days I often want to just leave and move on to more fertile soil, but then I wonder if the seeds we have planted aren’t actually slowly germinating and to move would be an act of impatience?

Staying put is disturbing because I tend to associate that kind of permanence with a settling down generally – a move away from adventure and risk and towards the kind of comfort and predictability that would make life boring.

The arrival of kids – especially kids who attend school has also thrown a new ball in the air for us. Now, to move is not just to unsettle our own relational network, it is to do it to the kids as well. I know they adapt etc, but it is another reason to be more circumspect in these kinds of ruminations.

When we first moved to Brighton I had 5 years notionally in my head as the time we would stay before moving on and starting over. Of course one of the assumptions that sat alongside that was the existence of a good sized Christian community that would no longer require the kind of leadership we would offer.

The journey to this point has been so unlike what I expected that I am unsure what the future may hold also. I regularly vacillate between choosing to live here long term and choosing to be geographically promiscuous because that opens the door to new experiences and satisfies my inner lusts.

Whatever the deal, I am a strong believer in the sense of God’s leading and responding to that. However life so far has taught me not to predict the future as God often surprises me.free night at the museum 2 battle of the smithsonian movie download

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