Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove tells a story about Abba Antony, a desert monk from the fourth century. In trying to figure out how to best be a citizen of two kingdoms (Rome and heaven), Antony decided that he would stay put in his town in order to be present in both worlds. A pilgrim sought out Antony and asked him, “What must one do in order to please God?” Antony encouraged the pilgrim to put God first and pattern his life after the Scriptures then added, “In whatever place you find yourself, do not easily leave it.”
It is so easy to give up on community. Being present with others requires a certain amount of vulnerability and risk. It requires that we give up some of our independence in order to live life together. But is it worth the risk? Is it worth being vulnerable?
Sometimes leaving seems like the best option. The grass is greener on the other side. There is more to offer in that town than this one. The salary at that place is higher than the salary at this place. That worship band is cooler than this worship band. That speaker is more engaging than this speaker. That school has more of my friends than this school. You can do it all by yourself, you don’t need others. After all, movement equals progress, right?
What if instead you decide to stay in the place you find yourself? To grow where God has planted you. Invest in people. As Andy Stanley says, “do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Put down roots. Talk to your neighbors. Be vulnerable. And who knows, you might just find God in the process. Wilson-Hartgrove concludes, “if we want our very being to rise up into God’s being, nothing is more important than rooting ourselves in a place where God can happen.”