What If Stability Is Not the Goal?

il_fullxfull.265505392I want to share something something that, due to our current circumstances, I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. (I know that I’ve said this before but it bears repeating because so much opinion is presented as dogma, especially on the internets. I process things with other people, sometimes verbally, sometimes through writing. I ponder something for a while and then put it out for feedback. This provides other viewpoints and different angles and allows me to (hopefully) come to a better conclusion.

The difficulty with this, of course is that I sometimes put out not-yet-fully-formed ideas which people perceive as more fully formed than intended. Processing together requires the humility to listen before speaking and then speak for the good of others rather than the pride of being right.).

Speaking of our current circumstances, as we try to sell our house and find employment, we are in the uncomfortable position of asking lots of prickly questions. What do I want to do when I grow up? Is it wrong to want to love your job? Are Christians obliged to pursue employment that results in the betterment of society? Is it worth it to live in a house that requires I spend the bulk of my time away from my family? What should we want out of life? What’s best for our kids? What does the Good News of Jesus have to say about the so-called ‘American Dream’? Is it selfish to want to love where you live? I’m no “Millennial”, but what if I don’t want a “work/life balance”‘ How can I teach my children that there is MORE to life than the daily grind and “working for the weekend”How can I best teach my children to take chances?

There’s a lot here that I’d like to write about. But today I want to focus on something else. There’s a way of thinking, often associated with the Boomer Generation (often in reaction to their experiences with war and their family’s fairly recent experience with the Great Depression) that keeps speaking in to my family’s current circumstances. It asks: Why don’t you just go get a decent job, work your way up and provide stability for your family?

You see the issue, of course.

IF this line of thinking is followed, then it doesn’t matter if you love where you live or what you do. That’s not the point. The point is stability. No sudden movements. The path of least resistance. And the point of parenting is certainly not to encourage risk-taking of any sort.

As we seem stuck at this crossroad, much pondering has been done.

I hear and appreciate the voices calling for stability. I mean, I’ve got eight kids, for crying out loud! One of the foremost considerations during this time of turmoil is what’s best for our kids.

But I wonder. Is stability really the goal of life? Have Christians been promised stability or is it the touchdown of the American Dream?

It might not be wrong to long for some stability in life. But I wonder if those times shouldn’t be for rest rather than the goal of life. In other words, what are the implications when stability is our goal in life? I’m not sure stability always leads to stagnation but the very pursuit of trying to remove turmoil from life (thus becoming “stable”), certainly for me at least, has concerning implications.

When the goal of work becomes to provide stability, what we’re really saying is that the family has a regular, stable income and schedule. Not only do I not think this is the goal of vocation (though it is a necessary blessing of work), I think that it can be dangerous to the soul.

Our version of “stability” usually also means “comfortable.” The point of work (as many believe) is to provide a comfortable life for you and your family. But I’m just not comfortable saying that the point of work (or, extrapolated out, life for that matter) is to be comfortable (see what I did there?).

Comfort breeds complacency because we most grow when we’re most challenged.

Striving to remove the challenges of life (in our case, significant and simultaneous career and home changes) simply atrophies our soul’s growth. We may form healthy patterns of repetition when stability is our goal but we won’t be stretched.

Seeking stability means that you’ve got to attach on to something tightly. The American Dream version is to attach yourself to a solid job and a quiet suburb. These things will provide the life you need. But the Christian must, by definition, attach themselves to something different.

Our stability does not come from our circumstances.

In fact, it often comes in spite of our circumstances. 

I keep finding myself meditating on Psalm 46. The one with the famous saying: “Be still, and know that I am God.” While purveyors of Crafty Christian Crap post it on pictures of waves and sell it to us as a heartwarming sentiment, I am frightened by this command.

Think about the context of God’s command (it is not a suggestion) to “Be still” and know that He alone “is God”. The earth is giving way. Mountains are trembling into roaring oceans. Nations rage and kingdoms totter. These are not stable times and these are not comfortable circumstances. And yet, God does not say He will calm the seas (which He does at another time) or pacify the turmoil. He speaks to us in the uncertainties and says: “Be still”.

He reminds us that He is “our refuge and strength” and “a very present help in trouble”. He doesn’t promise to make the trouble go away. He promises to be with us in the midst of it. He promises to be our stability even when our circumstances boil with uncertainty. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t take the right job to provide stability for my family (for the record, the right option to provide that stability has not yet presented itself) but I do think it’s worth considering what’s really best for our family. I don’t want to raise children to are afraid to take risks in life and pursue what they love.

As Kristi and I wait for what’s next, I keep thinking about rock balancing. Even if you don’t practice rock balancing, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures. Amazing people balance rocks on one another in sometimes astounding ways. Many of these could be knocked over by a strong breeze. But what if the point was never for them to be stable but beautifully balanced for that moment in time?

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we we try to sell our house and find the right job. And, if anything, pray for my wife. Her husband thinks way too much about things.

 

3 thoughts on “What If Stability Is Not the Goal?

  1. Praying for you guys as you navigate through all these questions. God is faithful. He will be faithful to your children no matter what you decide. He will help you and Kristi. He is our stability in all of life. I am thankful you guys are willing to put your thoughts on the ole internets… quite vulnerable of you, but helpful to the rest of us who have faced or will face similar decisions. We just worked through a lot of these issues, and decided to stay put for many reasons, but our kid’s ages (less huge change seems best as they approach adolescence), and our community (it takes years to build meaningful community in order to best minister and be ministered to) were at the top of the list. I need to talk to your wifey again soon! She’s the best.

  2. I love this. I’ve been wrestling with a lot of this lately, too. One of the things that I’ve been wondering is . . . is stability weakening my faith in God? There was a point in my life I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. I saw God in the form of a co-worker offering half of a sandwich. I saw God in people from church giving me a gift card to the grocery store.

    These days life is different. We have a savings account with 6 months of expenses saved up. We have enough equity in our house it’s possible we could find housing we pay for with cash (it would be a trailer in Queen Creek, but it IS possible). Our savings is there “just in case”, but where’s room for trusting God in our finances? It seems the more “stable” we are, the more I’m trusting our bank account than the One who has given me life.

    I know what the 60+ hour work weeks are doing to our family and I want off the ride.

  3. Ditto to the previous comments. I bought a house 2 yrs ago and have regretted it ever since. In the last 6 mos i’ve been considering “alternative” living. 🙂 Since I work from home now, I have been thinking it would the best time to explore this. It may not be forever, but it might be right for right now. The spiritual hole I’ve been in for quite some time now, is worse now that I’m “home” than it was when I was out among the pagans…LOL I had more opportunities to actively walk out what I said I believed, even in the struggle of being away from a church body and even in my OWN struggle with my faith. And it helped me hang on to what I said I believed…where as now, complacent is an understatement. I love y’all and think it’s great that you are willing to explore whatever may be next instead of just going w/the flow. 🙂

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