Should I stay or should I go now?

Lane is the more organized one in our marriage. If ever I forget this truth, I need only look at my calendar for the next upcoming flight on my horizon. It will be the morning of that flight, as I am furiously trying to find things I need to be packed and shove them into my suitcase, that I will be reminded of this truth.

I want to be organized. I crave order. But I am the kind of packer who throws all of her stuff into the suitcase without folding and then sits on top of the case to try and zip it. I am also the person who packs chaotically (half-crying, half-cussing) and then, on the way to the airport, is surprised to find I need something in the suitcase. I will be standing there in the drop-off area of the airport unpacking and repacking as Lane kisses me goodbye and tells me all of this would be simpler if I would just take the time to pack my bag the day before.

Deep sigh. I can’t seem to get better in this area. I picture myself folding things neatly and really thinking deliberately about what I want to bring my trip. The reality is way more chaotic: I pack way more than I need. I pack all the things I haven’t worn in 2 years. I end up wearing approximately one outfit out of the 5 I’ve packed. I forget things. I bring the wrong shoes. I bring too many shoes.

I received an email the other day from a reader currently in the middle of “Come Matter Here.” She asked a really good question, one I’ve wrestled with a great deal.

She wrote to ask, “I was wondering where you draw the line between planting your roots down to grow and “being where your feet are” and let’s just say, for instance, moving to the beach for a year. I love to travel and be spontaneous and I guess I was just wondering if it is bad to do that?”

First things first: nope.

There is nothing bad or wrong about being a spontaneous person, wanting to travel, or liking adventure. My husband Lane is continually reminding me to change the language I use when addressing circumstances in daily life. He encourages me to stop wondering if things are always “bad” or “wrong.” Without even knowing it, I can begin to spread my worry and fear into all areas of life.

When I adopted the motto “be where your feet are” before moving to Atlanta, I was at a point where nothing could satisfy me. I could have picked up and moved to the beach for a year and still, I would have likely missed the present moment. I don’t think there is anything wrong with packing your bags and traveling if you can (I actually would highly encourage you going out and seeing the world) but I think you have to be willing to ask the question: Am I running from something? Am I going somewhere because I am ready for a great adventure or am I leaving because I think it would be easier than staying?

You’re either running from something or you’re running towards something. There’s a difference.

If you are running from something then I would encourage you to dig in before you decide to go anywhere. I would ask you to dig deep. I would tell you to deal with the baggage before you go somewhere new because that baggage will surely follow you. It will show up in your beach bungalow. It will wave to you from the back of the packed car.

Admittedly, there was a ton of baggage I did not unpack before moving to Atlanta and let me tell you this: it was so much harder to deal with it when I was 1,000 miles away from everyone who really knew me.

My first few months of Atlanta were full of meeting new people and awkward first coffee dates but there was limited depth and I appreciated that. I appreciated that because I honestly didn’t want to know or face the depth of my mess. I wanted to be okay— even if it meant only on the surface— and fool people into thinking I was doing just fine. I tricked myself into thinking I didn’t have to deal with the parts of me that were disappointed with God.

People who really know you— they know your darkest parts— will ask the scarier questions: are you running from something? Have you talked to God lately? What are you really afraid of?

I have one friend who answers all my whiny statements with the same answer, “Go back to God.” Gosh, this friend frustrates me sometimes. I want to kick and scream and say, “NO! I don’t want to go back to God! I don’t want to meet him in the quiet of my room. I don’t want to hash it out. I want to stay mad and distant. I want to keep my pain. I want to fix it myself.”

But friends, she is never wrong. In all the years I have tried to avoid what is truly bothering me or tried to avoid taking that thing to God like an offering, my friend has never been wrong. I have always needed to go back to God even when I think I haven’t walked away. I’ve got a heart that is prone to wandering and Lord, oh Lord, do I feel it.

We all have a bag. We all pack differently. Some of us are traveling light. Some of us are secret hoarders who’ve never parted with a memory in our lives. I think we are all called to figure out how to carry our bag to the best of our ability, how to unpack it, and how to face the mess. I think part of growing up is learning how to sit down the floor with all your things and figuring out what to take with you and what to leave behind. It’s learning to do the hard work that comes with dealing with the messy.  It’s being wise enough to take that inventory and ask yourself: am I being held back? Am I really free? Is there something I’m still refusing to let go of?

Mind you, “dealing with the messy” isn’t an overnight quest. You likely won’t put it on your to-do list and check it off within the week. Life is always getting a little bit messier but I think we learn to fold it. We learn to deal with it. We learn to find order in the chaos and peace in the storms.

I’m not promising anyone they’ll encounter a day where life doesn’t throw a curveball and deal you a healthy serving of mess. I’m simply saying this: you can learn to sort through your mess with God. You can learn to wade into the mess and through the mess and come out as someone different on the other side. You can learn to run towards the mess rather than run from everything that scares you.

I guess I haven’t done a very good job of answering that reader’s question: is it wrong to want to pack up my life and go somewhere new?

The short answer: no. No, it isn’t.

You were created with adventure in your bones. You were created to encounter miracles. You were created to rejoice. But there is deep and satisfying work in opening the suitcase and figuring out what you’re really carrying before you go.

15 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go now?

  1. Hi Hannah,
    I saw your recent article on Fox News about breath prayers. I would call them whisper prayers. I also saw all of the negative trolling comments. Isn’t it amazing that so many folks today can’t accept that anyone disagrees with them?

    Anyway, I left a response under the name Credibility Checker for which I will likely also get my share of sarcastic responses. Just wanted to give you a pat on the back and tell you that your article WILLmake a difference to some distressed souls. Hang in there….

    Mike Edwards

    1. YIKES! I stopped reading comments on articles long ago. I rarely find that people comment because they have something kind to say (thanks for being an outlier!). And then I also tell myself: thankful I have enough work to do and keep me busy that I don’t have time to troll the comment section all day.

      Thank you for the encouragement! I hope you have the best week!

  2. Hannah,

    I can’t get over how timely your words always come through for me. I cried all through the night after making one tough decision about staying or leaving. I chose to leave because it was the easiest option. And now I’m realizing it was also because I am running away from a lot of baggage. I’ve been curled up in bed all day. Your words are light, Hannah. Your words have a way of bringing clarity and leading me out of the woods- gently. I am so thankful for you. I might have to make a shaky phone call after this. And I definitely have to put a stop to moving away from God. There’s no life outside of Him. Thank you a billion times.

  3. So much yes to unpacking our baggage, folding some of it neatly away, ironing out the wrinkles, paring down, maybe even double checking to ask ourselves, “Do I really need to keep on carrying this?” Well said, Hannah! From one “traveler” to another hugs from my heart to yours! ❤ Kristin

  4. Hannah,

    I don’t know if you’ll receive this email or if this will just go to some random spam box. Either way, I need to write it. I recently lost my job. A job that I know God gave me but also that He so lovingly took away. I had outgrown that place, I knew it and so did He (obviously). But now I find myself at the crossroads of continuing to matter here or go matter somewhere else (preferably warmer than Ohio…).

    When I read this email I thought, “alright God… I see you… I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you about this…” but then I got to the line you wrote, “I’ve got a heart that is prone to wandering and Lord, oh Lord, do I feel it.” That’s a line from my favorite hymn, “Come Thou Fount” which wrecks me every single time I hear it.

    I have a wandering heart and I’m prone to leave the God I love. When it boils down to it, I just want him to take my heart and seal it for whatever He wants. I just wish He was a lot more clear about what that was.

    Thank you, whoever you are, for taking the time to read this and possibly answering my tearful midnight emails.

    All of the love, Caiggy


    1. Hey love, I feel you. I want all the answers laid out in front of me. I often feel a bit mapless. But God is with you every step. I think it learning to let go of the fear that he is going drop the ball or leave you behind. Baby steps, babe. Maybe steal this breath prayer: God, help me keep my eyes on you.

      Proud of you!

  5. I just bought a house in Nashville for work while I’m falling in love with someone in Dallas who I met while volunteering at an inner-city church where we were both serving — in Denver. We had the “serious conversation” last night about the future. We’re both in our 30s with messy pasts, but what we’ve discovered in each other is something we haven’t encountered before in another human being. We haven’t known what do with this crazy connection between us and serendipitously amazing dates that we had before we parted ways in May, so we’ve stayed in touch. I want concrete answers like NOW, but there doesn’t seem to be one at the moment and I think I have to be okay with waiting and seeing what happens. We didn’t come to any conclusions last night because we decided we needed to both pray about it and give it some more time. 5 years ago, I would have had my hands all over this time of my life to try to make it go MY way, and to get it all figured out ASAP but I’ve spent the past 4 years unpacking my suitcase to figure out WHAT IS IN IT so this time I’ve got my hands open to God as I roll with these waves. “Come Matter Here” came at the perfect time for me to be present in the middle of all these changes and let God help me unpack my heart some more.

    1. Meg- I love this so much! Thank you for sharing!! Stay in the waiting and enjoy getting to know one another. This sweet time cannot be duplicated. Proud of you for letting go, babe.

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