I hunger for newness. I used to be flighty, trying to grow up too fast and moving on before I should. I tried new gadgets, new friendships, new cities.
No newness satisfied.
I’m beginning to grow out of it. I’m still less committal than I should be, but God has been teaching me that my hunger for newness isn’t one of personality—it is one of theology. What I needed for so long was a theology of place. I’m going to bet that you do too, and you don’t even realize it.
Though he doesn’t use the phrase “theology of place,” pastor Zack Eswine offers us an example of what I mean in his book The Imperfect Pastor:
If I am bored with ordinary people in ordinary places, then am I not bored with what God delights in? If I think that local limits of body and place are too small a thing for a person as gifted as I am, then don’t I want to escape what God himself gladly and daily inhabits? If I stare at a face, a flower, a child, or a congregation and say, “But God, not this. I want to do something great for you!” Am I not profoundly misunderstanding what God says a great thing is?”
Because God has rooted us within the “local limits of body and place,” we ought to never outgrow our britches. This isn’t to say any and all change is a bad thing, but it does mean we should be looking to stay faithful where God has us. After all, He’s omniscient, and we aren’t.
Forgetting About Place Wrecked the World (But If You Think About it, it Saved Us All)
Forgetting to think about God in light of “place” is what wrecked the world, if you think about it. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden with the four-part command to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). God gave them local limits of body and place—bone of bone, flesh of flesh, the ends of the earth; the image of God and the Garden of Eden.
They were given the specific vocations of worshipping God in their commission to rule the earth. Adam and Eve had been given a place—a season of life, a way to live, a circumstance. And it things didn’t go haywire until they grew tired of this place.
Their circumstances needed change, or so they thought. They hungered for newness—newness of knowledge and newness of their spiritual boundaries. They were discontent with the place God had given them. They wanted to be like God so they could move on to bigger or better things. So, they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
It wasn’t just plain ole disobedience that wrecked the world. It was a disregard of place.
The good news of the gospel means our broken understanding of place has been redeemed through Jesus the Christ—the one who, “existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited” (Phil. 2:6). Christ came to our place so that we may be seated where he is (Eph. 2:6–7).
In other words, Christ makes our place his place (and, likewise, his place our place).
The gospel liberates us from both busyness and idleness. Each and every town, city, country, and continent matters because it is a realm over which Christ has authority—it’s a place Christ has redeemed.
When we itch to move on without giving due thought to God’s desire for our obedience, we mimic Adam and Eve, neglecting how God has redeemed our place.
Yes, even in your place (or your season of life, or your vocation), people need the gospel. There is soil to be tilled and a harvest to be reaped.
Stay where you are, for the harvest is plentiful.