When Settling Doesn’t Mean Settling for Second Best
So, yes, it’s been some time since I’ve posted, but I’d like to think I have good reasons. At least I consider job changes and moves of more than a thousand miles legitimate reasons for throwing me off whatever routine I once had with this blog.
It’s been an unsettling period of time, which got me thinking about that word: settled.
It’s often the first question people ask after they learn we’ve recently moved.
“So, are you settled?”
They want to know if we’ve unpacked all the boxes, know where everything is and are feeling at home. I want to tell them we’re functionally settled, but not emotionally.
We’re settled enough into our current home to function. I can put a meal together, though there’s a small and growing list of kitchen utensils that have gone missing despite having unpacked all the kitchen boxes I expect to need for the next year. I will either learn to get along without the missing item or replace it, thus ensuring it will turn up the next day.
One sense of settling implies a certain comfort level, an accomplishment, perhaps a finality. Settling accounts means resolving, coming to a successful conclusion. In another sense, settling is more ambiguous. Instead of a satisfying resolution, you learn to live with a second choice, an alternative. Being pushed into earlier-than-planned retirement, starting an entry-level job in your mid-sixties, and being a renter after having been homeowners for thirty plus years, all feel like that kind of settling. These are not the circumstances we would have chosen for ourselves.
When we moved to Florida, nearly nine years ago now, we took the words of Jeremiah 29 to heart. “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (OK, we tried to plant tomatoes, but as Midwesterners used to rich black soil and one planting season, we never mastered the techniques of planting in sandy soil or the optimum time to plant to produce a harvest.) Nevertheless, we settled in. We flourished in our jobs (for a time); we found a church home; we developed relationships with others who shared our interests. We made a home there.
I had thought that coming back to our roots would be easier. But the circumstances under which we’ve returned feel more like Naomi returning to Bethlehem. We went away full; we’re returning empty. Don’t call me pleasant. I don’t want to say I’m bitter, but I am unsettled.
And I’m beginning to think that is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Being settled is being comfortable. Life is good, easy. I begin to feel I’m in control. Everything’s going my way. The reality is I’m not in control, but I trust in a God who is. I trust in a God who wanted Israel to settle into its life of exile—to build homes, plant gardens, raise families—even get involved in the life of their temporarily adopted country. “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jer 29:7).
But in the next breath, God assured them their exile would not last forever. He would be faithful to his promise to bring them back to the place he’d promised them. Exile was only part of his plan. The big picture is one of hope and a future, purpose and blessing.
There’s a purpose to this season of our lives. I’m not sure what it is at the moment. But I’m trying, day by day, to take encouragement and hope from the psalmist’s declaration, “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (Ps 119:89 KJV). The God who spoke the universe into being is the God who orders the days of my life. He orders the days and nights of nature; he has a plan for my life. That settles it.