A Sense of Place

Nancy and I are in a new home. I lived for eighteen years in one place and have moved eighteen times since then, the last move occurring just three weeks ago. Once our community was defined by the common ground we tilled and the crops we planted. I grew up in that kind of place, four miles from the nearest town. When Russian dogs began hurling over the corn fields at night in silent space ships (remember Sputnik?), everything changed. Like many, my community is no longer knit together by walking paths along fence rows. It is woven from the threads of cell phones, cars, and computers. Forty million Americans will uproot and move in the next year.

Whether we move because of schooling, marriage, or work, whether we choose to go or are carried off in the child seat of a van, the Good Book contains wisdom for us today. “Put down roots as if you are staying forever!” is what Jeremiah wrote in his email to the captives in Babylon. Seek the peace of the subdivision in which the Lord has placed you. (Jeremiah 29)

Making a commitment to the place we live is sound advice for our hydroponic society. It is not possible for many of us to stay put for years, much less generations, but it is possible for us to plant vegetables and trees and to take a long-term interest in our community regardless of how long we are staying. “It’s our mindset that matters” is what the Lord communicates through his Word. “Don’t act like transients.”

Many of today’s ecological problems (plus a host of other problems) are a result of not taking Jeremiah’s advice to heart. We act as though we’re just passing through. We forget that time and place are a gift from the Lord. Jeremiah’s instructs his readers to make sure they find husbands and wives for their children. What does he mean? Think long-term about where you are staying–even if it is not the Promised Land.

As Nancy and I settle into this new place, I’ll try to keep this biblical perspective in mind. All those satellites whizzing overhead remind us of just how connected our communities are to one another. We may communicate daily on a global scale, but we need to seek the peace of God right where we are. Shalom.

Dr. Sleeth is the executive director of Blessed Earth and is the author of Serve God, Save the Planet (Zondervan, 2007), the introduction to the Green Bible (HarperOne, 2008), and The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book (HarperOne, 2010).

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