Thoughts on Moving from One Place to Another

Flight to Egypt (Johann Paul Ludden)

I'm copying here an excerpt from a letter that showed up on a blog that my good friend Tamara Murphy posted today. It represents part of a letter I wrote her family in July 2011 as they prepared to leave upstate New York and move to a new life that awaited them in Austin, Texas. These are words that Phaedra and I will probably want to remember as we begin to anticipate our departure from North Carolina a year from now.

I offer them here as a practical help to anybody who has recently moved or is preparing to move. You can read the whole letter here.

Flight to Egypt (Giotto)

Planning a farewell ritual promotes an emotionally, relationally and spiritually healthy transition

By ritual I mean the following: 

1. Walking or driving down a favorite path/road, alone or with others, while you intentionally thank God for the good things that occurred there.
2. Eating a meal at a memorable restaurant or place, again while you consciously thank God.
3. Writing a letter in which you identify all the things that you're grateful for about this place.
4. Taking a moment with a few others in order to pray out loud and release to God this place that you've come to love (or not, as the case may be) and that you'll now be leaving.
5. Playing a last game of X or singing a song in Y place or going for a swim at Z location and then shouting "That was good!"
6. Touching, tasting, smelling, listening, in short, using all your senses to acknowledge the things that have been significant about this place.
7. Taking a moment with the family where everybody gets to share with the others things that they will miss most about this place and the people here, so that these things can be relished together, thanking God for them and then releasing them to God mindful that all of it has been a gift--and that all that lies ahead will also be gift.
The point is to make a ritual which you perform both by yourself and with others--a solitary ritual and a shared ritual. When the ritual involves sensory activity plus a spiritual attentiveness to God, which I recognize both in my own soul and before others who care for me, I have found that it helps healthy closure to take place. It also in that way helps healthy beginnings to occur. Healthy leavings and healthy comings aren't something that our society is that interested in making possible.

[Healthy leavings and comings] can become the grace of God to us and enable our hearts to grieve what needs grieving and to hope for what lies ahead, knowing that our Good Shepherd walks alongside of us....

Our last day in Austin, Texas (August 2009)

... Austin, Texas will call out things from you and your identity that would never have been called out in New York.

While you may not grow to love everything about Austin or about Texas (which you have every right not to have to love), it will also provoke, stimulate and awaken new things--new desires, new abilities, new opportunities, new strengths, new dynamics, and that will be a very exciting thing. You'll become a richer person for it, and it will open up a small window into the way God sees you and how he sees the world.

Our first full day in Durham, North Carolina (August 2009)


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