The average American moves every five years. That’s a number that has stayed fairly stable for awhile. It includes everyone from the elderly who are not as prone to moving to the 18–24 year olds who are moving every year for college or first jobs or exploring. My experience in witnessing families around me is that this is fairly accurate. Whole families, all the pets and kids and stuff, out of here and on to there. New job, new church, new friends. Wipe your feet and move on down the road. The moves are financial, personal, going to something, going away from something. We Americans sure love a change of scenery.
Lots of circumstances are beyond our control. I just had friends move most of the way across the country for health reasons. Other good friends couldn’t support their large families on the jobs/salaries available in our area. But I bet too often the goals are less virtuous, more like: “That looks better over there” or “I’m tired of these people.” Or “our church is weird,” “no one likes the things we do”, “too many of my family live here,” “not enough of my friends live here,” “I’ve heard that Austin has a lively music scene!” And that is a real temptation because people are the worst. They annoy us, sin against us and, even worse, are aware of our sins!
But, here’s what staying put might do for you and your family.
It might help you learn to live with others
Cellmates rarely fight. Stuck in a nine by six foot cage focuses you on your top priority of getting along with the other guy so he doesn’t shiv you in your sleep. That same principle applies for folks committed to living with each other in a workplace, church, community. If you are going to be around for a decade or two, you just might watch your language, be more ready to treat others like you’d want to be treated. The last thing you want is to soil your own bed and then have to lie in it.
It might humble you to remain around others who really know you and your faults
I suspect the reason for so many moves is that we are trying to escape to and from something. I personally have folks I’m a little embarrassed around because of past incidents or words or because of what I think they think of me. It’s hard to stick it out with other sinners, even if they are thinking the same things about themselves and you. But again, facing those situations has got to be better for our sanctification than avoiding them.
The stability might do great things for your children
Occasionally, but rarely do people reminisce about the three grade schools and two high schools they attended as their family bounced around the country. There is a real difference between those who have a hometown/home church and those who have been bounced from place to place. One child is more deeply rooted in the good than the other, having a place that is theirs, lifetime friends, a real sense of belonging. That pays dividends for the rest of their lives.
More might be expected of you
When you’ve been around awhile, the job, the community, the church, your family, the people then expect more of you— and that’s good. When you are a part of something and glean riches from your involvement, the group then expects a return on their investment in you. That in turn might make you a better employee, citizen, church member and son/mom/uncle/sister.
You might be a part of the solution
Whether it’s your town, church, workplace, school, charity, your long involvement will be an opportunity to make a lasting influence. Those years of service build trust and it’s trust that makes most good things happen between humans.
Your relationships might enter deeper waters
My own experience when I enter a gathering at my church is that of a family reunion. The list of people I’m connected to, who have been through the “wars” with me increases with each passing year. We may not even be particularly close to someone but put in the years next to them and we’ll have a connection that lasts a lifetime.
Of course there are no guarantees; sometimes a move does solve things, personally, professionally, financially. But too many of us are taking the road out of town at the first sign of “trouble” and are not focusing on what can be gained for us, our families, and those around us, by simply staying put.