LeadingSmart

Practical Stuff for Church Leaders

On My Mind: Roots

Until this past year, I’d never given roots much of a thought. Now, I think about it quite a bit.

I had the privilege of living the majority of my childhood in the same place. When I was 7 years old, we moved into a small two-story house on Ash Drive in Pleasant Hill, Iowa—which is where we lived until I graduated. During that time, I went to the same church (three services every week); attended the same parochial school from 2nd grade all the way through high school; played with the same friends; and shopped at the same stores. My family hung out with the Bishops, Tarbells, Whitings, Johnsons and Grabers all the time. We went to the same family camp together every summer to deepen our friendships.

We had what you might call deep roots. If someone was sick or a tragedy ensued, we would all experience it together. If somebody in the church died, we would all attend the funeral.

After my college experience with Life Action (which wasn’t really college, but for me provided the same training and social experience), I met the woman of my dreams and we started planting our lives in the same community where we would live for the next 25 years. We developed deep friendships, had babies, raised our family, built a church and poured into the community. For 18 of those years, we lived in the same house with the same neighbors, all raising our kids together, throwing parties, shooting off fireworks, building decks and pools and treehouses and ziplines. Our community was relatively small (which is what you say after you move to Houston), so we had relationships everywhere.

For more than two decades, we had the same family doctor, dentist, and auto mechanic. We shopped at the same grocery stores and knew what was in every aisle at Lowes and Home Depot. Our kids started in the PHM school district and for the next 16 years we would work our way through the elementary, middle and high schools. The faces in the crowd at track meets and band concerts were familiar to us. This was our community. These were our people.

You’ve heard people say, “You don’t really know what you have until you lose it.” You come home from a mission trip and just can’t wait to go to your favorite restaurant. Or you spend a week camping, and the thing you miss the most is a hot shower. For me, after driving away with the moving truck 13 months ago, the thing I miss the most is being rooted.

The definition of rooted is “to be established, deeply and firmly.”

I suppose if someone moves every 2 or 3 years, they don’t get accustomed to being rooted. But when you plant your life in the same community for 30 years—then you begin to realize the absence of deep human connection that only comes with time. In the darkness of the night, you think, “I’m so far away from my life-long friends, in a place where I really don’t know people too well yet—so if one of us died, who would come to our funeral? And where would we be buried?”

Pretty macabre thoughts, huh? And yet I’m guessing there are some of you who have experienced the same thing. You’ve moved recently and you are feeling unrooted. After the boxes were unpacked and the excitement of a new place wears off, you begin to feel disconnected. Oh, you have new friends, but they are one-year friends, not twenty-year friends. You are frustrated by not knowing where to go to find trusted help to fix your car or clean your teeth. You go to church, but everyone is a stranger and seems to already have enough friends.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m certainly not a counselor, but here are a few thoughts that help me…

  • I have to press into relational opportunities even when I’d rather stay home. If I stay in my comfort zone, I’ll never get beyond it.
  • Living in Facebook or Instagram to stay connected to old friends is an amazing gift from the world of technology, but it can also keep me mired in the past instead of leaning into my present and future.
  • Yes, you didn’t really know what you had until you lost it; but it’s also true that you don’t really know what you’ve been missing until you gain it.
  • Consider counseling. It’s not a weakness to find someone who can help you process.
  • Focusing on others' needs and hurts helps take your focus off your own.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud: “Endings are not only part of life; they are a requirement for living and thriving, professionally and personally. Being alive requires that we sometimes kill off things in which we were once invested, uproot what we previously nurtured, and tear down what we built for an earlier time.”

Uprooting is more painful than I imagined. But it is necessary for my growth.

And for yours.