When I was younger, my eyes were always on the horizon. I wanted to go somewhere else, be someone else, and live a different life.
Now that I’m in my thirties, my aspirations have flipped. I don’t want to go anywhere else, be anyone else (at least, on my better days), or live a different life.
I live in the same area I grew up in, and love it. I run or walk one of two routes every morning, and get anxious if I can’t. I work from home, and though it’s nice to get out and, you know, see people every now and then, I find it immensely comforting.
Instead of running from my roots, I feel like planting them.
This sentiment is not new to me. It’s reflected well in two Disney movies (I have 3 girls, so an increasing number of my reference points are Disney princess-themed, sorry!): Moana and The Beauty and the Beast.
Consider these lyrics sung by Belle in the opening number of The Beauty and the Beast:
Little town It’s a quiet village
Like the one before
Full of little people
There goes the baker with his tray, like always
The same old bread and rolls to sell
Ev’ry morning just the same
Since the morning that we came
To this poor provincial town
There must be more than this provincial life!
I used to identify so much with Belle. My world felt too small, too routine. There must be more than this suburban life, I thought. Surely I was made for more.
Or consider the updated take on the same idea from Moana, where her father and others try to convince her that their home is all they need:
Moana, make way, make way
Moana, it’s time you knew
The village of Motonui is all you need
The dancers are practicing
They dance to an ancient song
Who needs a new song?
This old one’s all we need
There comes a day
When you’re gonna look around
And realize happiness is where you are
Certainly, I would be one of the young listeners rolling my eyes at this point, had the movie been released in my childhood. But instead of feeling my eyes rolling, I feel my head nodding.
I listen to some new music, but not much. For the most part, the old songs—the ones I internalized in high school and college when I had the time to do so—are all I need. At some point, my eyes opened and I realized that happiness was (or rather, could be) found right where I was.
I suspect some of this nostalgia has to do with my aging, but more than my age, I find my faith informs my feelings on rootedness.
I’m a Southern Baptist by confession, and so my focus is squarely on fulfilling the Great Commission. I pray often that God would send my family wherever he wants us, whether that’s across the street or around the world. And I mean that prayer.
But regardless of whether a Christian stays or goes, they are called to belong where they are—to contribute to the flourishing of the place they find themselves in.
When God’s people found themselves exiled in Babylon because of their disobedience, God told them to put down roots in their new home:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:5-7)
Israel is to contribute to Babylon’s flourishing because, by doing so, they would flourish, too.
And notice that God said, “the city where I have sent you.” We are where we are because God has put us there. Yes, he may send us elsewhere at some point, but wherever he has us, we should be praying for the good of the place and the people in it. And we should be making it a better place while we’re there.
So yes, I live in the same place I was born. I married my high school sweetheart. I live most of my life within five square miles. And I couldn’t be happier.
For however long it lasts, I’ll enjoy the life God has given me in the place he has me. I’m singing along with Moana and her village,
So here I’ll stay
My home, my people beside me
And when I think of tomorrow
There we are