Which Way is Up?
Having moved to Edmonton for university last fall, it took me probably 5 months to get the correct vernacular of ‘’I’m heading DOWN to see my parents in Red Deer” and “I’m heading back UP home this weekend”. Whereas, having moved to Calgary for the summer, I still get the direction wrong. Moving between communities is a lot of that question: which way is up?
Where is the grocery store? Where is my church? Do I have a church? Do I know anyone in the city? Where and why does God want me here? And then back to literally which way is up as three months in, I’m still using Google Maps every day. So yeah, moving cities can be equal parts terrifying as it is transforming. How then can we best prepare and transition as our communities change around us?
The horizon approaches
Moving between cities more frequently, and anticipating that such will continue for my future work terms, it has become clear how absolutely necessary it is to pursue these transitions in a God-honouring way. I would say that the most important component of this pursuit is to be in consistent prayer, way before the move occurs. You may be moving for school, work, family or otherwise, but God has a plan for your 40-hour work week and the 128 hours in a week outside of that.
I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:1-3 NIV:
“To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.”
And yet, being prayerful doesn’t mean we are constrained to being reactive. While spontaneity in arrival can be great, theoretically, I like to plan things a bit more. I see planning as just the natural integration of stewarding the time and resources that God has granted me. So, figuring out basic stuff to make your first couple of weeks go smoothly can help manage the anxieties of transitioning, while also allowing God to use you since you aren’t so focused on just surviving.
Finding a supportive Christian community is also a massive component. While I knew upon moving to Calgary that FAC would be my first stop, I was still checking out other churches by listening to their online sermons. So, ahead of moving, I encourage you to check out other churches’ sermons ahead of time to see if you resonate with their theology and sense of community.
That said, while there are some effective differences in doctrine from church to church, I think that doubling down on a church is better than trying out a different church each week. There isn’t a perfect church. There is a perfect God. Find somewhere where the scripture and community activate you, inspiring you to grow with them for Him.
I think the other part of transitioning to a new community is not forgetting that you just left a community. That, hopefully, you just left a good community, a community that loves you, is praying for you, one you might see again soon or have given a fond farewell, but also one of relationships that do not falter just because of distance. In my case, I had the most wonderful opportunity to go camping with my small group from Edmonton midway through the summer. It was a great time to see my friends again, a community that I cherish and am cherished in.
While I know that I get to return to them in just over a month, those relationships are not ones I am willing to lose with but a paltry move between us. Even if someday I move away more permanently, I intend to remember the people I leave behind. Because I am not leaving them behind. I shall walk in another city, in the same pursuit of Christ as they. They shall continue to have needs that I pray for and God will continue to have plans for them.
Arrived and alive
And suddenly, you’re displaced, tens, hundreds, or even thousands of kilometres away with none of your usual distractions being available. Most educative and working positions leave you with two days and seven evenings a week where there are no direct demands on your time (I speak as a single male alone in a city – family life apparently may take a direct demand on people’s time). In the first weeks after moving, those are hours where you probably haven’t already committed to friends, family, hobbies or otherwise.
So, what communities, supports, and hobbies will become the new normal? Where do your priorities fall? Moving is among the best periods of time to evaluate if you were taking on too much, too little, or just the right amount where you were before. I know, having come from being super busy in school and/or church, sometimes I need a period of time where I am just building myself and my capacity, but there comes a point where I need to apply that capacity. Switching cities is a great time to see if such a point has come.
This summer, I was overjoyed to be able to serve in the church again, something that my 80+ hours a week studying software engineering didn’t let me do in Edmonton. Though school will likely keep me similarly busy when I move back this Fall, I will continue to strive to involve myself in the church and in the communities through which I pass.
Here ’til forever
But on the note of transitive community, what if you’re born and raised in a city, born and raised in Calgary, and you’ve never left (or plan on doing so)? What does a healthy transitive community look like for you? What spark of possible change are you evaluating? What new aspect of God and his plan for you are you taking hold of?
Even if you’re not moving now or ever, unless no one around you is switching communities/jobs, you are going to end up in new places with new people or the same place with new people. How are you meeting people where they’re at and you’re at? Or, are you just closing yourself off from new communities, friendships, or serving opportunities?
Perhaps I’m projecting from my own uncertainty of where exactly God wants me but I don’t think it is unhealthy to be in a constant state of reflection on how God wants to use you. Because that makes sure you are keeping your mind and soul ready and open for what comes next.
For me, what comes next is moving back to Edmonton for the Fall, and either coming back to Calgary or heading off to some other city around the world for my next work term. But, I thank God that I have a great church community in three communities now and that I can continue to pursue Him through any and all transitions to come.
Written by Kendrick Schellenberg, tech volunteer and member of FAC Young Adults
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