Learning to Stay When You Just Want to Run Away
Originally published on Grit & Virtue.
On a chilly weekend in August, I was roped into volunteering for a Tree Planting project in the countryside. As a designated ‘Planter,’ I had to get on my hands and knees in the wet soil to dig a hole that wasn’t too deep or too wide. In the process of digging, I was unearthing the homes of all the critters that live underground so with every scoop of dirt, spiders and other large insects would scuttle out of the ground in frantic panic.
I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I’m the queen of running away from mess. That’s my gut instinct – to flee when life becomes confusing instead of clear-cut and simple. Anxiety will always tell me the easiest option is to abandon my commitments halfway, leave difficult people behind, and make a fresh start at a new school, a new church or even a new country.
Earlier that year, a familiar itch was making me anxious to leave again. Fear and anger were speaking lies into my situation and convinced me the place God had led me to was always going to be a mess. That I would always feel out of place. That there was no seat for me at the table. My relationship with God felt strained and distant, and so I made plans to figuratively pack my bags and bolt.
But as I was on my hands and knees planting the seedlings that were destined to grow into strong, mighty trees, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if these plants were to grow legs. My imagination ran wild and I started to imagine what it would look like if these saplings could think and had my tendency to run away. When the weather forecast changed from sunny to cloudy, and from cloudy to torrential rains, I imagined them saying ‘Nope it’s cold and wet and this sucks. Time to move somewhere sunny, like Mexico.’
We know this is insane. Plants aren’t going to sprout legs and move to another country. They grow roots that penetrate deep into the ground and flourish where they’re planted. If you were to just yank a plant out, you would ruin its growing process and they would never become the mighty oaks they were supposed to be. So I just had to ask, if I was constantly uprooting myself, how was I ever going to grow? If I was constantly getting restless and running away from places and difficult people, how was I ever going to mature into who God wanted me to be?
God knows we’re fickle creatures who likes to use the silent treatment. He knows that we like to live with one foot out the door, bags packed, and ready to leave the moment things get scary. He knows that we like to ditch when the seasons change and the going gets tough. I think that’s why Jesus makes it clear in John 15:4 (NIV) that we’re to remain in him just as he remains in us. No branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine. Neither can we bear fruit unless we remain in Him.”
When we make a commitment to God and choose to remain in Him, He’ll give us the strength, perseverance and grace to commit to people and places even in difficult circumstances. God is constantly teaching me to plant down roots even when the soil around me is tough. When every fibre in my being is begging me to run away from my problems, He gently nudges me to stay.
Planting roots can look like different things for different people. It might look like investing in community even when you’re tempted to flake out. It might look like being the first one to extend the invitation. It looks like staying even when you can’t see Him moving. When I was tempted to run away, I had to go below the surface with people and tell them my fears and anxieties. They helped me weed out the lies and sow truth instead. You have to decide you’re in this for the long-haul and show up consistently These roots will keep you grounded when the storm comes and threatens to spiral out of control. Your community will keep you accountable and help you pick up the pieces when you’re down.
You’ll miss out on all the magic people and places have to offer if you always run away when fear comes around. And trust me, fear will always come around.
Commitment is sexy. Sticking it out even when the soil is tough, is even sexier. When you already have clarity that God has specifically led you to this place or this season, you owe it to yourself to stay there and wait on Him. You might not always see the ways you’re growing, but rest assured, all your roots are being planted under the soil. So girl, unpack your bag, put away your running shoes and just stay.
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