There has been one constant in my life for the last decade. From sunny Southern California to the rainy Pacific Northwest and back, one group of companions have gone through it all with me.
Lots and lots of boxes.
In the last ten years, I have moved over twenty times. I want to say that this last move might be lucky number twenty-three, though I could be off by one or two, give or take. I learned quickly that good moving boxes are hard to come by, and when I knew I would only be in a space for a limited time (whether it be a few months or a year), I would hang onto my boxes, breaking them down and keeping them in a safe, dry place. Sometimes I don’t even unpack fully. I have been surrounded by boxes, proof that my roots ran about as deep as a non-Chicago-style pizza.
People joke with me that I must be a professional at packing and moving now, and I have to confess that it is the complete opposite. Packing, moving, unpacking… the whole process traumatizes me and causes me to freeze in my tracks. I have gotten progressively (regressively?) worse at packing every time I have to do it. New boxes join old boxes, reminding me once again that it’s time to be transplanted.
It’s that dread that tells me how desperately I want to be rooted. I feel a sense of impending doom when it comes time to compartmentalize my life into cardboard cubes, closing off little pieces of who I am until time comes for them to make an appearance again. Yet, how long will they get to this time? After ten years of wandering, looking for a place to belong, I want to find it. And the frightening thing is, I still don’t feel like I have yet.
I was sitting in my living room a few weeks ago, taking a break from unpacking and ignoring the ever growing pile of empty boxes taking nest in the dining room. I stared at them for a while, knowing I should break them down and toss them, and knowing inevitably that I will. However, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel a little wasteful, and the thought, “what if I need them in the near future?” kept flashing through my brain. I knew I won’t, at least not for quite some time–plenty of which to reload with new boxes.
Boxes intimidate me, yet I cannot let them go. They were a sort of safety net for a while, but what I’m beginning to realize is that they are now a crutch. They tell me that I cannot go too deep in friendships because I will leave soon. They taunt me that have not found my place in the world and frighten me into believing that I may never find it.
How can I keep them if this is their message to me?
Yet, the obstacle between their demise and my freedom is all that they hold inside. I’d mentioned that unpacking had become traumatizing at some point in time, and it still is. It has been two months since I’ve moved, and I still have boxes in varying degrees of emptiness and fullness scattered all over the house. I even had a box that was lost for so long, I thought it’d vanished.
In the midst of all this stress and box hunting, I overlooked the most constant companion beyond these ten years.
Who else but God has carried me through all of these moves, made them possible to complete? Who else but God can empathize being on-the-move so much? In the Gospels, Jesus and his crew stayed with people as they traveled; sometimes they were invited, sometimes they had to ask for a roof for the night. Yet Jesus was so rooted in who He was and what He had come to do. He trusted that there would be food and lodging because He fully grasped what His purpose was. The rest of the details would fill themselves in because they are details in a plan for God’s glory. Because God’s ultimate goal is to glorify Himself, and because He has chosen to use us to get to that goal, He absolutely will take care of the details that will get us there.
I have allowed my many moves to affect several pockets of my life. I have doubted my purpose, I have doubted my usefulness, and I have doubted my Father. I have felt as though all I’d been put here to do is survive and exist, and I have nothing to contribute otherwise.
But I do have something to contribute. Why else would God have placed me on this earth with my specific struggles and pieced me together with all the conflicting identities that make up who I am? I have nearly stamped out my voice, burying it under ten years of cardboard. I have lost faith in who I am, but I am finding faith in who He is. Moving is traumatizing for me.; it exhausts every cell of my body, but moving cannot take my purpose from me. I have been transplanted more times than I can count, but thankfully, God is a wise Gardener that knows how to keep my roots alive to give them a chance to dig deeper.
To give them a chance to find home.
I can’t say that I’m going to be cured of my psychological attachment to cardboard any time soon; it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to cold-turkey this in the blink of an eye. But I’ll be doing my best and working on it. It will likely involve loud, angry music, a sci-fi show or a rerun of a hockey game playing in the background, and maybe a few friends, but it’ll happen some day.
I have to believe that God has more for me than boxes and shallow roots. There is such a great desire in the deepest part of me to belong, to do something meaningful and come back to more than just a place to lay my head.
And I hope some day soon, I really will lose my need of boxes. I hope to find the place where I will settle down and stay and root.
Until then, I’ve got some work to do.