Should I stay or should I go now?
I want to be organized. I crave order. But I am the kind of packer who throws all of her stuff into the suitcase without folding and then sits on top of the case to try and zip it. I am also the person who packs chaotically (half-crying, half-cussing) and then, on the way to the airport, is surprised to find I need something in the suitcase. I will be standing there in the drop-off area of the airport unpacking and repacking as Lane kisses me goodbye and tells me all of this would be simpler if I would just take the time to pack my bag the day before.
Deep sigh. I can’t seem to get better in this area. I picture myself folding things neatly and really thinking deliberately about what I want to bring my trip. The reality is way more chaotic: I pack way more than I need. I pack all the things I haven’t worn in 2 years. I end up wearing approximately one outfit out of the 5 I’ve packed. I forget things. I bring the wrong shoes. I bring too many shoes.
She wrote to ask, “I was wondering where you draw the line between planting your roots down to grow and “being where your feet are” and let’s just say, for instance, moving to the beach for a year. I love to travel and be spontaneous and I guess I was just wondering if it is bad to do that?”
First things first: nope.
There is nothing bad or wrong about being a spontaneous person, wanting to travel, or liking adventure. My husband Lane is continually reminding me to change the language I use when addressing circumstances in daily life. He encourages me to stop wondering if things are always “bad” or “wrong.” Without even knowing it, I can begin to spread my worry and fear into all areas of life.
When I adopted the motto “be where your feet are” before moving to Atlanta, I was at a point where nothing could satisfy me. I could have picked up and moved to the beach for a year and still, I would have likely missed the present moment. I don’t think there is anything wrong with packing your bags and traveling if you can (I actually would highly encourage you going out and seeing the world) but I think you have to be willing to ask the question: Am I running from something? Am I going somewhere because I am ready for a great adventure or am I leaving because I think it would be easier than staying?
You’re either running from something or you’re running towards something. There’s a difference.
If you are running from something then I would encourage you to dig in before you decide to go anywhere. I would ask you to dig deep. I would tell you to deal with the baggage before you go somewhere new because that baggage will surely follow you. It will show up in your beach bungalow. It will wave to you from the back of the packed car.
Admittedly, there was a ton of baggage I did not unpack before moving to Atlanta and let me tell you this: it was so much harder to deal with it when I was 1,000 miles away from everyone who really knew me.
My first few months of Atlanta were full of meeting new people and awkward first coffee dates but there was limited depth and I appreciated that. I appreciated that because I honestly didn’t want to know or face the depth of my mess. I wanted to be okay— even if it meant only on the surface— and fool people into thinking I was doing just fine. I tricked myself into thinking I didn’t have to deal with the parts of me that were disappointed with God.
People who really know you— they know your darkest parts— will ask the scarier questions: are you running from something? Have you talked to God lately? What are you really afraid of?
I have one friend who answers all my whiny statements with the same answer, “Go back to God.” Gosh, this friend frustrates me sometimes. I want to kick and scream and say, “NO! I don’t want to go back to God! I don’t want to meet him in the quiet of my room. I don’t want to hash it out. I want to stay mad and distant. I want to keep my pain. I want to fix it myself.”
But friends, she is never wrong. In all the years I have tried to avoid what is truly bothering me or tried to avoid taking that thing to God like an offering, my friend has never been wrong. I have always needed to go back to God even when I think I haven't walked away. I've got a heart that is prone to wandering and Lord, oh Lord, do I feel it.
Mind you, “dealing with the messy” isn’t an overnight quest. You likely won’t put it on your to-do list and check it off within the week. Life is always getting a little bit messier but I think we learn to fold it. We learn to deal with it. We learn to find order in the chaos and peace in the storms.
I’m not promising anyone they’ll encounter a day where life doesn’t throw a curveball and deal you a healthy serving of mess. I’m simply saying this: you can learn to sort through your mess with God. You can learn to wade into the mess and through the mess and come out as someone different on the other side. You can learn to run towards the mess rather than run from everything that scares you.
The short answer: no. No, it isn’t.
You were created with adventure in your bones. You were created to encounter miracles. You were created to rejoice. But there is deep and satisfying work in opening the suitcase and figuring out what you’re really carrying before you go.