My shoulders and neck ached. I wanted clarity. The calendar served as a reminder that it was time to make a decision. I laid out the options: public school, homeschool, private school. I could argue the case for any of those.
It’s this sort of dilemma that birthed the phrase “first-world problem”. Yes, it may be worthy of an eye-roll that I considered this a problem, but that’s what it was.
In the middle of my angst and indecision, I started reading Shannan Martin’s newest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places. Her words rang in my ears:
“This mission humbly asks that we devote ourselves to the overlooked spiritual practice of paying attention to wherever God has placed us.”
I shuffled those school options around. I knew part of the answer should be informed by my understanding of “wherever God has placed us”. That’s when I started to recognize something as I looked around. It seemed the more options a person had, the less likely they were to be deeply rooted in their local community.
It’s hard for roots to grow when you’re not often physically there.
We’re living in a time when we’re busier than we’ve ever been. In my middle-class community, I see this played out most clearly in families who have incomes that afford options. They are choosing the best private school, multiple extracurricular activities for all the kids, vacations, . . . All good things that can easily spread us out farther from our own communities.
The problem with having options like this is, if we’re not intentional, they can insulate us from our actual neighbors. A raise in income that gives us the margin to afford the best of the best for our families can move us farther away from the neighbors we’re called to love.
Could it be that if God has placed us in a particular place, we should use our resources to bless that place and not escape it?
This is a difficult balance. How do we make choices that fit the needs of our families and still take into account the need to love our community?
It might mean choosing a “fine” school in your neighborhood rather than the great private one 10 miles outside of your town. It might mean going to the church on the corner instead of the cool one everyone is talking about that’s farther away. It might mean limiting your children’s activities to things that keep you together, or at least, nearby.
By making our geographic circle smaller, our world becomes richer. In other words, draw a smaller circle. I know. I know. Everyone is saying to draw a wider circle, but they aren’t talking about commuting to work or school or church. The sentiment of inviting more people into your life can work beautifully with intentionally investing locally.
It’s possible that one solution to the chaos of our schedules is to say “yes” to things that keep us close to our homes and “no” to those things that take us too far away. Staying close gives us a fighting chance to even notice the beauty and the needs that are on our street corners.
“We cannot love what we do not know.
We cannot love what we do not see.
We cannot see anything, really, until we devote ourselves to paying attention.”
– Shannan Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places
We don’t have to walk through a door just because it’s unlocked. May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom to know which ones are for us and which ones aren’t as we learn to love the place where he has placed us.
Past articles in this series: