There’s a certain mentality in many twenty-somethings today that the way to live life is to live broad. Go places, do things, never stop. While I haven’t been as drastic as some in this approach to life, I must confess that in my years since high school, I’ve lived a good number of places—Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Region, Edmonton, Jasper. And while in some of these areas I moved residences on a yearly basis. I was not grounded. I was a drifter, a vagabond. I always had some direction in which I was heading, moving towards some new experience. I must confess that after eight years of living this way, I’m getting tired. I’m tired of having no roots, of constantly having to re-make myself, to build new social circles, to have to develop new, real friendships when I don’t know how long It will be until I move on again.
I was reading A Place Like Any Other: Sabbath Blessings by Molly Wolf this morning. The book is a series of essays, and I was reading the one from which the book takes its title. In it the author reflects on the town she lives in, commenting that it’s nothing special she says its, “a little scruffy, a little unfocused, mildly apologetic.” I know the type of town she speaks of. I’ve lived near them and witnessed the overweight women in jogging suits working at the grocery store and the “always-for-sale-no-takers” ramshackle hotel that Wolf describes in this essay.
We tend to think that a life worth living should be attractive, “gloss, smoothness, fresh paint” and “comfortably cocooned in your car…listening to music, sipping good coffee.” We stray away from those who would invade our personal bubbles and pop this vision we’ve created for ourselves. We avoid those who make the world seem drab.
Wolf goes on to point out that we never feel at home in this world because we don’t allow ourselves to be. We want the smooth and polished, we turn our backs on history, grab on to the latest fad, and then wonder why we aren’t satisfied. But if we allow ourselves to stay in one place, to experience life in the joys and struggles, taking it for what it is and seeing the love of God In it, then we will know what life is. Then we will feel at home.
“Love’s not in grandeur and holy-heroism; it’s in the dailiness of things, in the slightly agonizing give-and-take of trying to do the best we can by each other.” It’s the struggles and the ordinariness of life, Wolf argues, where God’s beauty can be seen. “God’s beauty is not our beuty.” From there, the author breaks down all the things she had previously seen as smudged, now in the beauty of God. Her ramshackle town transforms into a place of hope, love, and a secret peace.
As I read her words, I felt a question formed in my mind. Have I been being selfish by my constant moving? The roots she talks of, the beauty she sees in her town, the fact that the citizens there are all God’s souls, is this something that I’ve allowed myself to become blinded to? Am I chasing after a more attractive life, thinking that it will bring me fulfillment? Do I need to refocus on those around me, put down roots, and invest in the people there, acknowledging that we are all God’s souls? God is not a God of grandure and fame. God, it the king of everything. God is the God of the ordinary. He created all things, both the grand and majestic, as well as the drab and forgotten. He loves them all. Our culture has made fame and comfort our gods. But the true God doesn’t follow the trends, he stands for something more. Now I have a choice to make, after all, man cannot serve two masters. And if you think you don’t have a master, don’t kid yourself. Take a look at your life. What do your treasure most? Congratulations, you’ve found your master.
But really, here is the true question of this post, “Go broad or go deep?” Staying in one place means committing to the ordinary. But first, that means acknowledging that the ordinary has some merit in it, and that life there too can have meaning.