Humility and Roots

I learned a couple of things about myself as I travelled last month.

The first: that it takes a lot of humility to continually receive hospitality and I’m not very good at that.
The second: I’m no nomad, I need roots.

I loved visiting with my friends. It was . . . well, there aren’t really words that quantify how wonderful it was to see them again and in their natural environments too. To see their places of work, where they go to school, to meet their friends and family members, to visit their churches, and share their favourite eateries, was a privilege I was so grateful for. It’s really great to be able to put people in their contexts and now when we talk I’ll know exactly where they are speaking about!
I did find it hard, though, to continually be the one receiving. I desperately wanted to reciprocate their kindness but didn’t have the means to. If we lived in the same place I would have them round for dinner, or over to stay for a couple of nights but I just had to sit back and accept their generosity.
It was a really humbling experience. The situation makes you vulnerable; you’re completely dependent upon another individual, incapable of purchasing or attaining for yourself by any other means the services which they are fulfilling for you, services which you would be lost, homeless and hungry without. You are at their mercy.
When that mercy is gladly given, it humbles you further. That people would care about you so much to welcome you into their home, to go out of their way to accommodate you, to forego studying for their finals for you(!), you realise how undeserving you are of such kindness and how deeply blessed.

Before I left for California I had a conversation with one of my pastors around commitment to a place. I talked about my desire for adventure, the part of me that longs to leave everything behind and just set off into the sunset, not knowing where my feet might take me. Such a dreamer. In my head I thought I would be the nomad, the lonely wanderer picking up friends along the road. My pastor suggested that it was more natural, and more necessary, for us to have a centre of gravity, a place from which we could flow. He described people he knew who had tried to maintain two centres of gravity over a period of time but found it incredibly difficult and ended up choosing one place over another. So what, I thought. Doesn’t mean I won’t be successful in having no centre of gravity but simply floating as though on a cloud. (I hope you’re sensing the sarcasm here).
Just two weeks of spending no more than two nights in any one bed was enough to teach me that I am not a natural nomad. I do not thrive on that.
I want to be in one place for a significant amount of time and really be there. I want to know its secrets, its hidden gems. I want to know what makes it tick. I want to feel it. And I want to be in a place with purpose. I like to get involved, to know what’s going on in the community and contribute. Otherwise, I never really feel at peace in a place.
It’s not an easy realisation for me to accept. It sounds to me like I’m going to have to settle down in one place and there is nothing that I want less. The idea of settling, accepting less than adventure, horrifies me. Yet I have to hold that in tension with a desire and need to put down roots. Deep.
I wrestled for a lot of my trip with whether or not I would ever repeat it without returning to Scotland. I guess I partly went out to get some answers on that front. After a lot of wandering round San Francisco, whispered prayers and shouted grievances, conversations with people wiser than myself, I think I hear God saying that I’ve to go ahead and put down roots as deep as I like here in Edinburgh. I need not be scared that in a year’s time I’ll painfully have to pull myself out again, either because I’m not leaving or because, when that time comes, He will have prepared me.
The door to the USA is not closing tight. It’s got more of a revolving thing going on. And being here does not mean settling or saying no to adventure. It’s just a different kind of adventure. San Francisco may prove to be a place of refreshment and learning in the time ahead but it will not be home in the foreseeable future.
My roots are planted here.

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3 thoughts on “Humility and Roots

  1. Your reflections on dependence and vulnerablity interested me: in many ways they echo parts of my journey of self-discovery. As a young teen, I too easily gave myself over to others and was dependent on them to meet my need for recognition of worth and value. In my middle teen years I resented any form of dependence and struck out alone to prove the strength of my financial, emotional and societal independence. But somewhere between then and now, I learned the joy of INTERDEPENDENCE.

    Tolkein said that Not all who wander are lost; sometimes I agree with him and at other times that just hasn’t been the case for me! But in my many travels and wanderings (wonderings too!) I came to see the value of the narrow path that is interdependence. Now, it’s a difficult one: go too far one way and you stray into dependence; too far the other and you’re alone in independence. But if you can walk as both the unique person God has created each of us to be AND recognise that God designed us to be reliant on others, connected to community and to him, then a beautiful joy awaits. I realised that I didn’t have to choose between having a strong self-identity and being vulnerable with others – they could co-exist! Now to everyone else, this is probably stating the obvious but to me it was a revelation.

    In the example you gave of being dependent, I see a great example of interdependence. While others offered you food and accommodation (which you couldn’t reciprocate), perhaps you had a gift to offer them that was just as important as the offerings that had so humbled you – that of friendship, or kind words or spiritual wisdom. We all have God-given needs and more often than not, he chooses to use others to meet them. Is this not the major point of the creation story? God + 1 human = not good. God + 2 humans = very good. We weren’t created for independence but for interdependence. For me, the end of my wanderlust coincided with my realisation that interdependence was a reality and one that was God’s plan for his creation. I pray that as you embark on this next stage God would cause your roots to grow deep and find the still waters.

    • brokenjars, you are so right! I feel like God has been working on these things in me for quite some time and I think we’ve got a good while left to go but I too am slowly but surely learning that joy of interdependence and how to hold life in that place of tension. thanks so much for your thoughts!

  2. Interesting thoughts about having to have one centre of gravity, not two. Having worked and served in several places in recent years, I often find myself torn between two places. A good example was this past week where I had to split my time between leading my youth at Imagine, and also serving on a stall at the marketplace.

    Perhaps this could be an aspect of “serving two masters”? I forget the reference. Hence why I study Applied Theology and not the thoroughbred stuff you do!

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