Leaving or Staying.
She sat across from me and said these words: “My family knows how to leave, but we don’t know how to stay. This time, I’m staying.” She made a conscious choice to stay instead of running. Although she didn’t really know how to stay, she was bent on learning – and she was doing it by staying put. She was bound and determined – aimed at learning to stay.
We tend to do life the way we saw and experienced it as kids. It becomes ingrained in us. We don’t even realize how closely we follow the pattern set before us. Instead of just assuming that the way we saw it done is always right, perhaps we should stop and consider our reasons for leaving, for our refusing to stay.
Learning by doing
Some of us know how to leave, but have never learned how to stay. Our experience was one of upheaval after upheaval. Whether it was job, church, or relationships – when things got rough, our ancestors packed up and left. It might not have been a physical move; it might only have been an emotional move. They threw caution to the wind and moved; we became part of the casualty from the move. For some of us, the move was physical. Moving was as much a part of life as the sun coming up in the morning. It happens with families who move half-way across the country for education or a job; it happens with families who move half way around the world for service, either as government employees or missionaries.
We learn not to set down roots because the pulling up will be less difficult when it comes time to pack our bags and go. It seems easier – and safer- that way. Only thing is, we lose so much by not experiencing deep and lasting friendships. In some ways, we never find ourselves.
Children experience this and don’t recognize their loss – because this is just the way their family does life. Only later, years later, can they recognize how the upheaval brought insecurity, unsettledness, and an aloofness that dared anyone come close and call for accountability.
The selfishness of leaving
When life is tough, the simplest, easiest and most selfish thing to do is just pack our bags and go. Just like the kid playing at someone else’s house, when things don’t go his way, he picks up his ball and hauls it home. He doesn’t have to deal with the conflict; he also has no one at home with whom to play. Sometimes he finds a smug satisfaction that the other kids can no longer play with his ball!
The hardest thing about life is relationships. It doesn’t matter if it’s family, community, work or church – relationships are what make life hard. Rather than learning how to make peace, pushing through difficulties by learning give-and-take, or being willing to make restitution, we haul off our playthings and leave. In our minds, we think it makes the other party the guilty one – the one who is in the wrong. Truth be told, we’re more guilty than they.
We take that mindset right into adulthood – and it affects our marriages, our parenting, our churches, our communities, and our world. We think we’re grown-up because we can just walk away from conflict. Only problem is, we’re running away from ourselves.
The wholesomeness of staying
That’s why what the gal shared with me that day was so profound. Instead of running from trouble, she was choosing to stay. Rather than leaving because life was hard in her neck of the woods, she planned to stay in that neck and learn to live there, rubbing shoulders with the difficult people in her life.
When we’ve never learned to work things out, we cannot learn to stay. It’s true that there are times we should leave – whether it’s a community, a job, or a church. Our reasons for leaving must be based on truth and not on emotion of the moment. They must be based on fact instead of feeling.
We give up too soon by giving God a time-frame to change things. We expect others to grow up but refuse to grow up ourselves. These are all reasons why we choose to leave instead of stay.
Most definitely, we should never leave unless we have first learned to stay. Until we are willing to stay, it’s not the right time to leave.