Ok. I did it. I’ve plunged headfirst into the Sufjan Stevens, fandom pool. And yes, as you can tell, I’m a little behind the times on cool, hipster music.
What hooked me was his song Chicago. If you haven’t heard it, I’d suggest you go drop everything your doing and go listen to it with your best friend, preferably in a van… in a parking lot (so sorry). I’ll even go ahead and do you the favor:
As some of you know, I’m currently in the process of moving to Connecticut (not Chicago) from my home in Orlando, Florida. A big change geographically, culturally, and pretty much in every other way. So, yes, I do know it will be blisteringly cold up there, most of the time anyways.
It’s a pretty strange feeling though. Orlando is where I have planted my roots for what seems like the first time in my life. And if I’m honest, I’ve never really let my roots down before having moved to Orlando. It feels weird now having to uproot and move to another culture, away from the friends I have made, the church I’ve invested in, and from a city that I’m beginning to realize I actually pretty well enjoy. Most have felt the pain of leaving home, and this feels like the first time for me.
I’m struck too with a little bit of existential angst: will life forever be laying down roots and uprooting every couple years? Will I ever find a permanent home? Is there even a point in letting the roots down?
I’m certain there is a point, but at the moment what I’m feeling in leaving is something that I’m having to grieve.
About a week ago, my community group from church threw me and one of my best friends a going away get-together. He happens to be departing to Jackson, Mississippi, so we’ve talked before about how we may never live locally together ever again. It’s a morbid thought but a true one nonetheless. Ironically enough, we’ve both bonded over that Sufjan song recently. Having listened to it way too many times, I think it’s about Sufjan uprooting and rooting from one place to the next for reasons that have left him upset and feeling sorely mistaken for ever having left. It’s an upbeat but somewhat melancholic song because I think like most of us, we’re constantly searching for “home” and coming up short (in our minds, in our minds). We are ambitious and excited but are then left wondering what we’ve done and why we’ve left.
For me, I know I am called to Connecticut but am now currently stuck in this tension of calling and comfort. Will I ever find a home on this Earth? Will I ever find a calling on this Earth? When I lift up my roots will they dry up? If I stay in this soil will my roots dry up? Is this an act of naive self-destruction or hopeful self-cultivation? There’s a terror in this tension.
At that get-together, I voiced these thoughts to an incredibly wise and maternal other. I told her how I couldn’t fathom leaving my friends and community behind, and with a gentle but confident tone she responded, “Jeb, you know, after being uprooted – it’s the best time for something new to grow.”
I think that’s what Sufjan’s conveying by saying, “All things go. All things grow.”
It’s not about whether the roots should’ve been lifted or not but about now what will be grown.
It’s not about where the tree will be re-planted, in that soil here or that dirt there, but about who’s the gardener. My genuine home isn’t found on the ground in which I’m placed, at least right now, but in the hand of my Beloved – the one who cultivates us even when it feels like we are losing everything.
I’ve talked to numerous friends these last couple days who have previously left our community or who are soon departing, and all have mentioned the difficulty of living in an “already but not yet” world – a world between our former home of slavery and our future home of intimate glory. We’ve left home for a new home, but still, we are not yet home.
The nexus of Chicago leaves us with this, “If I was crying, in the van with my friend, it was for freedom from myself and from the land”.
I clutch for that freedom. The freedom that dispels the despair of feeling like I don’t currently belong in this land and the anxiety of wondering if I ever will find home.
I have a home. I have a purpose. In those two statements lies a freedom that I can find nowhere else but in the dirty hands of an often unrecognizable gardener.