When God is Asking You (Okay, More Like Telling You) To Stay.
Four weeks ago, I hopped into my car early on a Saturday morning and drove down the Calgary Trail, my brightly coloured travel mug in the cupholder beside me. My mind was buzzing, so I drove south & west on a clear, sunny Saturday, towards mountains, because I thought maybe I could think better in the mountains. The mountains have this strange capability of making me feel like I can breathe again, while also taking my breath away.
I knew I had to make decisions soon, and I was unsure as to what answer I wanted to give, so I just kept asking God, “Is this an open door? What should I do? Where should I go? Is my time done in Edmonton? Where am I supposed to go?”
Somewhere on the Trans Canada Highway, very clearly, a phrase came to me: “It’s not the end, but it is right now.” I thought that meant what I wanted it to mean - I had an out. Jesus was opening a door for me to go back to Hamilton. It was the end of a chapter in Edmonton. I could go put both feet back in Ontario.
It turns out, I was very wrong.
One of my biggest flaws (& I’d love to chat through more of them, but for now we’ll focus on this one) is that I live my life with one foot in one place and one foot in another, not as a way of balancing the two places where my heart lives, but as a means of protecting myself. If you have the audacity to try and tell me you care about me, I’ll remind you I’m leaving soon, so I won’t get attached to you and you shouldn’t get attached to me.
It’s so hypocritical of me, because I call people out all the time on defense mechanisms, on living timidly, on living with a toe dipped here, too afraid to go deeper. But I’m the most guilty.
Why is why staying is hard for me. Metaphors about leaving always came more naturally than prose about staying. I was always the girl that was going to leave my small town, I was always wanted to be moving towards the next thing, I was always the girl who wanted to go. Leaving is more instinctual to me than staying. I’m not great at placing both my feet in one place and saying, “Okay, this is my home for now, and I’m not going to build an emergency exit or an escape route, I’m going to build roots!”
I think God is out to change that.
The short way to tell the story is this: I spent a month interviewing for a job in Hamilton. I had a Skype interview, a phone interview, and an in person interview. I prayed a lot. I stressed a lot. I had some weird dreams. In between the Skype interview and the phone interview, I went to the mountains, and that tiny phrase - “It’s not the end, but it is right now” - made me think these interviews were game changers. The job was incredible, and the more I interviewed for it, the more I wanted it. The more I dreamed of a life back in Hamilton, of a road trip back home, of reconnecting with friends and regularly attending Rams games.
But when the phone call came about the job, it did not come with an offer for home. It came with an offer to stay home, here, in Edmonton.
After my final interview, I was listening to a podcast, where Tsh Oxenreider was a guest. I had been hearing her name a lot lately - she kept popping up all over my Instagram feed and podcast feeds. She had just released her book, “At Home in the World”, a travel memoir about the year her family spent travelling the world.
Tsh talked about the vows of stability that monks take Benedictine monks take, a vow that basically renounces wandering, and I felt my ears perk up, my heart turning toward this message, before I thought, “Too bad God’s already giving me an out. I don’t have to stay in Edmonton. This message doesn’t apply to me.” But once I sat down in a coffee shop, I immediately Googled for vows of stability.
“By making a vow of stability, the monk renounces the vain hope of wandering off to find the ‘perfect monestary’. This implies a deep act of faith. . . the vow should also preclude the temptation for one to think they’d be better off in some other monestary, or better off leaving monastic life all together, if difficulties are encountered. It is a commitment of love to the community for God’s sake, to be of service to the brothers who God had brought together in a particular place to perform his work.”
I wrote that all down in my journal & then wrote, “Lord, are you calling me to take a vow of stability?” I waited 0.005 seconds & wrote, “Nope, not getting that feeling.” But then, words about staying kept popping up, and I just kept ignoring them. Then the phone call came, giving me a unique opportunity and asking me to stay out west. And then, a day later, I said yes, and now I can’t stop thinking about what happens when God asks you to stay.
If we’re going to get really honest, here’s the flaw that’s at the heart of it all - at the heart of the leaving, the living life with one foot here and one foot there, the forever protecting myself. I think I know better than God, and I would prefer to be in control. So when I’m not getting the answers I want, when the signs God is sending me do not match up with what I want, when I am not in control, I arrogantly ignore Him, reminding Him that I know better.
And now God is asking me to stay. Well, not asking. More like telling. It feels very much so like God to be say, “You want a change? That’s cool. Here’s a great job. You still have to stay in Edmonton. You have to learn how to stay. You cannot keep running forever. You have the roots for relationships here - now let’s grow them into something. You have great relationships at home - keep growing those, too. PS. I still know better.”
It feels very much so like me to want to run and rebel against that command.
I don’t want you to think I think leaving is bad now, or that staying is all God is calling us to do. But I know, oh so clearly, staying is what God is calling me to do right now. The more I look back on the last month, the more I see God calling me to this place.
Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not the first answer I wanted. Even when I was pretty sure I knew better. Even when I am pretty sure I know better. Even when I’m scared, anxious, lonely. Even when I am fighting every instinct to run. Even when it doesn’t quite make sense. Even when I want to politely remind people I don’t want to be close because I’m probably leaving soon.
I’m taking a small, lil vow of stability - to plant both my feet here, until the good Lord calls me back home. (To Hamilton, not to Heaven, although maybe that's a real possibility!) To finally learn a balance of keeping up with home and investing in relationships in Edmonton. To find out things about myself that I wouldn’t have found out if I was back home. To love & serve well, right where I am. To do the work God has called me to do, right here. To balance the FOMO on life back home with cheerleading of the people I love most of all back home, and here, in my Edmonton home.
I’m forsaking the mind wandering about whether I would be better off somewhere else, I’m choosing to figure out what stability and staying even look like, I’m loosening my grip on controlling things (well, trying to), & I’m whispering, “Okay, Lord. You know best. Let’s try this staying thing on for size.”