It began around the last year or so of high school.
People asked about my college plans, and I told them about my intention to attend community college, and later on, Temple University. My friendly inquirers congratulated me on my sensible and economical choices; how practical, they said, to do the same work for so much cheaper and closer to home.
Meanwhile, most of my friends packed their earthly belongings and headed off into the wild blue yonder, ready to test their wings and their luck. Grantham, PA. Lynchburg, VA. Clearwater, FL. Even Orange City, IA, and one to California.
A few years later, friends started graduating from college and moving again; Chicago, Texas, Florida....the friends I had made at college moved away, too. Maryland. Boston.
Even my family moved halfway across the country, leaving me in the good old Philly ‘burbs to try their luck in the tiniest of Michigan towns.
I stayed behind. Stayed only 45 minutes from the house I grew up in, stayed by my (then) fiancee, by my job, by college.
Fast forward six years...I live in an apartment 5 minutes from my first home in Glenside, the same apartment my husband and I moved into as newlyweds. We (well, I) casually keep an eye on houses for sale in our neighborhoods, knowing that we love this area and want to stay.
Fast forward six years, and find us active and engaged members at a wonderful local church. A church that has close ties with Westminster Theological Seminary, and the many students that flock from across the globe to study there. Students, who after their 3-5 years of seminary (possibly with a marriage or baby added into the bargain), move to Anywheresville, USA to pursue God’s calling for their lives.
And we stay.
We say goodbye to Kelli and Will, Jason and Sarah, Juan Carlos and Samara, James and April, Brooke and Dan...not to mention their wonderful children and the hope of wonderful VBS’s. We know they are going to follow God’s leading, they are choosing exciting and fulfilling adventures, and they are pursuing the things they are meant to pursue.
But our hearts break a little bit. Ok, a lot bit.
Our most recent conquests, Dan’s and mine, are two wonderful young men who have become quite good friends of ours. They live just minutes away and we have them over regularly for dinner and movies, spewing random movie trivia, cracking good-natured jokes at one another’s expense. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know these friends, engaging in each other’s lives, praying for, supporting, and rejoicing with one another. But I know, in that objective, self-serving and self-preserving part of my brain, that they will leave us one day. They will leave us for good, purposeful, godly intentions. And we will stay behind, our roots deep and strong and lonely.
I’ve begun to wonder lately how the next five, ten, fifteen years of our lives will be shaped by these friends, these brothers and sisters in Christ to whom we offer our love, our energy, and our friendship. What will happen when we aren’t young and energetic anymore, when we have small children who drain our emotional banks and sap our time? My hope and my prayer is that we will continue to reach out to these movers and shakers, these transient, and that our home will continue to be a haven, a respite, a safe place for a warm meal and friendly company. I also become increasingly thankful for those few friends who remain here, with whom we grow, love, support, mourn, and celebrate.
Being the ones who stay has changed and grown my understanding of community, and made me so aware and grateful that we are creatures designed for relationship. These friends enrich our lives and break our hearts. They keep us serving, keep us humble, and they inspire us to love freely and without condition. They, without ever knowing it, give food to our roots. They give us a purpose in staying.
We will stay. We will love from near and far, we will welcome, we will unpack moving vans, we will feed and befriend and shower, and then we will repack vans and send off.
We will stay.