There is a controversy raging right now that is sending arcs of electricity dancing through the air between Kansas City and Washington, D.C.
If you do not live in either one of these cities, you are probably blissfully unaware of this epic feud.
The fun all began on June 13 this year when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to the Kansas City Region.
It is a move that will potentially involve nearly 550 USDA staff members.
Folks in Kansas City were tremendously excited to hear this news. After all, it means a boost for the local economy, added prestige, and many potential new converts to The Magic of The KC Experience.
The USDA folks potentially affected by the move are… well, let’s say somewhat less than excited. At the joint staff meeting where the move was announced, many USDAers in attendance stood up and turned their backs on Secretary Perdue as he spoke.
They said the move would disrupt their social connections. They said it would upset their children’s educational progress. They say they are not willing to watch a major league baseball team that consistently fails to play at or above the .500 mark.
(OK… I just made that last one up. But they WILL say that once they think about it.)
Kansas City people feel miffed by the Washingtonians’ response.“What do you mean you don’t want to move here?” we ask. “We LOVE this city! And you will, too, once you taste our BBQ!”
Their (our) feelings are hurt. We see it as a negative judgment on our hometown by some snooty, high-falootin’ East Coasters. Heck, we say, they probably wonder if indoor plumbing even exists out here on the Great Plains.
Having experienced a forcible, cross-country relocation myself – in the summer between my junior and senior years of high school – I know nothing could be further from the truth.
So chill out, KC. It’s not about US at all.
What it IS about is the emotional and physical trauma that is an inescapable part of making this kind of move. People have to deal with the severing of every connection that defines them… whether social, religious, family, cultural, or community. They have to deal with the challenge of rebuilding all of those vital relationships, let alone figuring out which neighborhood to live in, where to shop, where to dine, and where to find a good bagel.
But as hard as the move is on the adult members of the family, it is probably even harder on the children.
It feels like an UPROOTING. And who would ever voluntarily subject themselves to THAT?
50 years ago this month I did exactly that. Mind you, not without great howls of protest and the conviction that life – as I knew it – was about to end. However, unlike the USDA staffers, I was utterly powerless to resist the pending upheaval.
But somewhere along the way, the funniest thing happened.
I don’t know what caused it, but at some point in the middle of my wailing and protesting, a switch inside me flipped. I came to the realization that I had the power to decide what kind of experience this was going to be.
I could decide that this was going to be a horrible, traumatic, worst-thing-ever experience.
Or I could decide this would be the opening of a new chapter of adventure and challenge in my life… a moment to be faced and seized and maybe even RELISHED.
And then after that realization dawned, the choice was easy. I opted for Door #2 and the rest – as they say – is history. And as a symbol of my new adventure, I decided I would take on a new identity. I decided that this would now be the time for my childhood name “Rusty” to go away, and my new, quasi-adult name “Russell” to emerge.
Of course, Sonny Perdue is not God. But just like Sonny Perdue, sometimes God calls us to be obedient to upheavals and uprootings from our comfortable circumstances.
Just ask Abram. Or Joseph. Or Moses. Or Mary. Or Joseph. Or Paul.
And I am sure most of the time there are a hundred good reasons we could offer as to why this uprooting is a really bad idea… about how much pain and discomfort this will cause us and our families… about how inferior a place Canaan is to Haran… and how we really would prefer to stay right where we are.
Or we can just decide to believe God is using this uprooting as a way to enlist us at the beginning of a new adventure of faith and obedience.
So… which will it be?