If I travel all my life
and I never get stop and settle down
long as I have you by my side
there’s a roof above and good walls all around.
Well I’ll never be a stranger
and I’ll never be alone
wherever we’re together
that’s my home.
Billy Joel, “You’re My Home”
I’ve never moved away.
I’ve moved, of course. Like many young adults, I’ve spent much of the last eight years drifting around Seattle from dorm to house to apartment, punctuated by family visits. Every time was much the same: trolling Craigslist for leases likely to please us, cardboard-boxing our lives and then settling into a new home, unpacking and hanging pictures, breathing a settled sigh of relief as we ate pizza and watched a movie in our unfamiliar new home. And though the homes have changed, the view outside hasn’t, much. The grey skies and green trees follow me around the city, and I’m still surrounded by layers of water and mountains, whose outlines I can trace even when I’m sleeping.
But none of these moves were away. I came to Seattle with my family when I was eleven, and since then have stayed. I’ve always stayed. And now I’m going.
I reflected on this change this morning in an interview with the Bethany mission committee. The chairperson asked me what God was teaching me.
“I keep learning the same things,” I replied. “Learning to trust God with the future, timing. It’s always the same trust, everywhere I go. Trusting God for what is the next step. The next step has always been staying in Seattle. Now I’m learning to trust when it’s not.”
At every juncture of life since high school, I have wondered if it was time to leave Seattle. Like my parents, I am a traveler, interested in meeting new people and hearing their stories, curious to see the world from all sides. Yet it’s never been time to go. I graduated from Ballard High School with the conviction that the financial security of attending SPU, where my mother works, outweighed the glamor of going to a similar East Coast university. I remember looking out of my first dorm room on Moving Day #1 and seeing my high school, smiling genially at me from across the Canal. Four years later, as I contemplated teaching internationally, it still wasn’t time to go. I had a sister I was just getting to know, a youth group to whom I’d committed for another three years, and a job offer at a public high school in Seattle.
For me, the lesson of young adulthood has been how to appreciate the beauty of investing in the community around me. Not used to long-term residence or relationships, I’ve been learning to trust God in the indefinite termlessness of young adulthood. What does it mean, I used to ask, to stay somewhere and to love it?
It means a lot. It means renewing leases a few times, with a sigh of relief that we could put off moving the piano for another year. It means growing up with people, sharing the triumphs and sorrows of many stages of life. It means watching friends and family graduate from high school. It means returning home, so many times, stepping off of planes or emerging from freeway tunnels to mountains and rain and grey, loving it more each time.
And now I’m letting go. Firmly grounded in the love of this home, I am moving away, packing up my room on a Sunday night and listening to silly Owl City’s “Hello Seattle” while the miraculous May sunshine reveals how much dusting is still to be done.
I’m still a wanderer, still thrilled by the thought of riding a train to a town I’ve never seen, ready to love kids I don’t yet know. Yet, as I contemplate leaving home for the first time, I am see that God is still teaching me. Stay, He’s told me, when I longed to keep running. And now, Go. I’ll be there, too. So it will be home.