If you’re in the midst of major life change or choice, you may be asking, “How do I figure out what’s next?” Here are some thoughts about “place” that may help with your discernment.
Author, Meg Jay says, “adult life is built…out of person, place, and thing: who we are with, where we live, and what we do for a living.” She encourages us to “start with whichever of these we know something about,” but sometimes when we’re discerning, it can feel like there aren’t any “knowns.”
So, where do we start? In our search to figure it out, we can easily allow the “what” – the job – to drive us rather than the “who” and “where.” By default, we apply for jobs, accept offers, and move—sometimes without any consideration of what life will be like in that place for a recent graduate looking for meaningful community. What if we made our search first about people and location rather than occupation? What if we moved for a community, church or church plant rather than a job?!
When a Penn State senior, Justin, found out about a group of graduating peers and young pastors who were planting a church in Philadelphia, he thought, “What if I moved for the church and narrowed my job search?” Instead of making his process about what he would do for a living, Justin decided to take a risk. With that came an incredible opportunity: rather than striking out on his own into the unknown, Justin went to a place where he knew God was at work to join a community where he could be “iron sharpen[ing] iron” with other believers from his undergraduate experience (Proverbs 27:17). He chose place first.
In the book of Acts, we learn that God appoints and determines the places we live. He locates us with his purposes in mind. Wherever we go, there will be people groping for Him, and we can participate in their process of finding Him (Acts 17:26-27). Or, we may be the ones seeking and searching for a time, and God will put others in our lives to guide us back to him. The place where we live determines the people and community we “do life” with. Though it may seem obvious that our location makes a significant difference in the life we live, too often place becomes an afterthought.
In retrospect, Justin is so grateful that he allowed the “where” of his next step to be at the forefront of his decision-making. It’s not that he didn’t have any challenges his first year out, but he was able to commit to a place and a group of people that mattered. God provided not only a job in his field but a community in which he could flourish!
Though it may seem challenging to consider a theology of place on top of everything else you have going on, I encourage you to consider the who and where of your next step as much – if not more so – than the what. As you’re contemplating a move to a new location or deciding to accept a job offer, I urge you to press pause and picture yourself there.
- What is the place like?
- Are there healthy churches that you can join?
- Are there opportunities to find and build community?
- Where is God at work in that city/town? How can you join him?
All of these questions are crucial to considering place. How would it change things if we moved for a church community instead of a job? Chose a neighborhood based on opportunities to serve and learn, rather than convenience and familiarity? This may not be possible, but if you’re not sure where you’re headed or if you have a few options on the table, make sure you pray about place!