When God Asks Us to Move

by Melannie Svoboda SND on March 2, 2020

I will be moving to a new place this fall–if all goes as planned. The house the three of us are living in needs some major repairs. The parish that owns the house cannot make these repairs. We understand completely. The parish is not kicking us out; we are being proactive. In future blogs I’ll reflect on this venerable house (it was built in 1848!) and the moving process. In this reflection, I would like to talk about moving on as a modus operandi of the spiritual life.

Here is a dialog between God and me. I did not actually hear God with my ears, of course. And I’m not writing so much about physically moving from this house. I’m writing about the deeper movement of the soul, the movement from where we are to where God is calling us to be.

And the Lord God spoke to me, saying, “Get up, my Beloved, and move to a new place.”

And I said: “But, God, what’s wrong with this place? What’s wrong with where I am? What’s wrong with me as I am? Can’t I stay here, please? I like it here.”

And God said, “Move.”

“But, God, don’t you see? I’m familiar with this place. And I like familiar things. Unfamiliar things scare me. And I’m comfortable here. I like being comfortable too.”

And God said nothing.

“God, I’m tired of moving. I’ve been moving my whole life. I just get settled somewhere, and you ask me to move again. When I was younger, it was easier for me to move into the future. The future was an exciting place, full of possibilities.

“But now, God, things are different. The future doesn’t look as expansive as it used to look. The path ahead for me seems more restricted. It’s darker too. Lots of ambiguity, uncertainty. Why can’t I stay here, God? In fact, I was even wondering if I might exchange this wind-torn tent for something a little more permanent, more stationary? Like a small sturdy log cabin? Or maybe even a modest brick house? What do you have against settling down, anyway?”

And God said, “My Beloved, I am asking you to get up and move on. Your journey is not over yet. You must keep moving forward. Pack a few essentials for the trip: Faith… Hope… and Love. And tuck in Humor… Patience… and Curiosity too. Sometimes I think they’re almost as important as the Big Three.”

I pout.

(All photos from Pexels)

God continues: “Your life lies before you, Honey. Always before you. Movement is the essence of all that is. Think of planet earth rotating every day. Think of it circling the sun every year. Think of every single cell in your body as moving. And every molecule that composes every cell. And every atom that composes every molecule is spinning and twirling and dancing away! Flow is the essence of existence. Flow is the essence of salvation. Flow is the essence of me too.”

I sit and think. And then I say: “Okay, I get that. Everything’s moving. But why must I move? Give me one good reason.”

And God takes a deep breath and then says, “I’ll give you three good reasons: because I am asking you to move… because I will be with you every step of the way… and because I think the world of you!”

I am silent. God is silent. And then I say, “Okay. Okay. I’ll move…One more time… because… only because I think the world of you, too.”

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  1. Are there any words or phrases in this reflection that “hit home” with you? If so, what are they and why?
  2. What have been some of the major “moves” in your life? Did you welcome them or resist them? What helped you to make these moves?
  3. What are some of the “interior moves” that God asks of us–for example, to change our attitude about something? What helps us identify and make these moves?

Our song today is an oldie but goody: “Day by Day” from Godspell. The refrain is attributed to a 13th Century English Bishop, St. Richard of Chichester. I chose this song because it captures the essential movement in the spiritual life: SEE… LOVE… FOLLOW. I’m offering two versions. The first is the song with lyrics set against some beautiful nature pictures. The second is a clip from the movie (1973).

“Day by Day” with lyrics:

“Day by Day” film clip

I invite you to respond to this reflection, the song, or the other responses.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

John E Hopkins March 2, 2020 at 5:05 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
Good morning, all…

First of all, good luck with move; such a thing is always a bit jarring, especially when it’s not of your choosing. We are a pilgrim church, and I guess that means we are pilgrim people, but…..

Anyway, the line that made me feel the “deeper movement of my soul” is “The future doesn’t look as exaspansive as it used to look.” As we age toward Heaven, change rouses us to re-broaden the comfortable confines of our lives. No easy task! Thankfully, I assume you won’t be moving alone.

But as your blog also indicates, movement is natural, inevitable, and maybe even necessary. If a tree does not bend in the wind, it does not grow as well. Still, the concrete power of place is a force to be reckoned with.

I’ll end with these lines from Psalm 16: “O Lord, it is you who are my portion and my cup;/ it is you yourself who secure my destiny./ Pleasant places are marked out for me: / a fair heritage indeed is my lot!”

Take care!

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Becky March 2, 2020 at 5:30 am

I literally just received an opportunity to move to a smaller house in order to downsize & pay down some debt. The house is smaller and older than my current one. I don’t know what shape it is in except it fits my need for smaller and cheaper. This wasn’t even “on my radar”. Is your blog a SIGN?

I wish you courage in your move and will be praying for you. Please pray for me. To God all the Glory!

I love your weekly blog!!! God bless. *Becky*.

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Kathleen Magiera March 2, 2020 at 6:31 am

Sr. Melannie,

I like the line that Movement is the essence of all that is. I am a yoga teacher and find that movement is critical to our physical and spiritual health.

God bless you as you prepare to move on.

Kathleen

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Denise March 2, 2020 at 6:47 am

Good Morning Sister,
“Movement is the essence of all that is”…Boom! There it is for me, everything in nature and life is about change, day by day and moment to moment. Nature, which I believe to be His ultimate creation, is perfection in constant motion. Still it is hard to be a constant sojourner literally living the will of God over our comforts, desires and achievements. I feel ya sista!
You and your fellow housemates will be in my prayers and fingers crossed, this move will bring a new chapter of wonder and excitement.
I find your musings so relevant and uplifting. Thank You.

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Clara March 2, 2020 at 6:49 am

Though not easy, and not always an option, moving gives one a chance to take stock of one’s life. I have gone through some major moves in life, some by choice, and some as a matter of forced decision, I have chosen to look at them as opportunities, and have always made it through without regrets!

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Ed Johnson March 2, 2020 at 7:24 am

Sister,
Thank you. A wonderful, heartfelt post today. Words from a favorite prayer of mine…..”Lord God, in You I trust. The past I confide to Your mercy; the present to Your love; and the future to Your providence……” Wonderful words in challenging circumstances. And the song from Godspell, “Day by Day.” Well, that says it all….We indeed live with God day-by-day. A peaceful and Blessed Lent to all.
Ed J.

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Cindy Stutts March 2, 2020 at 7:56 am

Morning…Sr. Melanie,
Two words come to mind:
SURRENDER
DETACHMENT
How hard this is. However, Jesus told his disciples to go out in twos and to carry very little. Also, be ready at any moment to get up and move. So why do we grab hold and cling to so much stuff? I’m going through the motions of trying to purge of some much. Not an easy task. But, once Zi start, I feel the weight being lifted and I feel lighter.
I know this will be a difficult move for you. But, I feel that God has a bigger blessing waiting for you. Can’t wait to hear about them in your future blogs!
May the Lord Bless You & Keep you.
May the Lord show His Kindness & have mercy on you.
May the Lord watch over you & give you PEACE.

Cindy

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Kim March 2, 2020 at 8:45 am

I am sorry that you will be moving. (Even though I am not in Chardon currently). I enjoyed seeing you at morning mass. A constant smile.
My very favorite line in your writing today is “Pack a few essentials for the trip: Faith… Hope… and Love. And tuck in Humor… Patience… and Curiosity too. Sometimes I think they’re almost as important as the Big Three.”
Change is difficult for me, I pray you find a place where you feel comfortable. I hope to continue to follow you in your writings. They often speak to me. Thank you for your service

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Mary James Kelly March 2, 2020 at 8:52 am

I can really identify with this. I was so comfortable where I was spiritually. I didn’t want to move. But it was as you said– everything is in movement– so it was forward or backward and I surely didn’t want to go back That was not appealing at all so I took the leap and trusted and it get s easier now each time I’m asked to go further, deeper.

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Jean Canatsey March 2, 2020 at 10:21 am

Dear Sr. Melanie,
This morning my husband & I were listening to a Lenten reflection which suggested we asked ourselves what we need to work on during this season. We both immediately said, “Acceptance”! Now in our early 80’s, we are both struggling with growing old which encompasses not only moving from a physical place, but also from being the couple that is always helping to be those who need help. It is a difficult transition. We wish you well in your “transition” from your place of comfort to the unknown.
Thank you for the song today. It brought back such pleasant memories because our daughter, Melanie, was in a production of “Godspell” when she was in high school and “Day By Day” was her solo. I’ll never forget the floppy yellow hat with the big pink flower that she wore nor the complete “abandon” of the cast as they moved towards the unknown.
Please pray for us as we will for you.

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mary ann flannery March 2, 2020 at 10:22 am

Melanie: This is one of your masterpiece essays! And I can resonate. I’m the same way: love the routine an old house affords, love the creaks and cracks, the big yard, oh–just everything. I won’t like to move either and I know a move is breathing down my neck. But your resolution is so beautiful. It is helping me reflect. Thanks. Mary Ann. P.S,. Moving before the book is finished or after?

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Kathy L. March 2, 2020 at 10:26 am

Sr. Melanie, this column was brilliant!
For me….the journey is not over yet. A lot to ponder.
Thank you for this monday reflection –I always look forward to it.
Peace, and keep on movin’ – the body and the mind.

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Josita March 2, 2020 at 10:37 am

Dear Melannie,
Being a member of a religious community I know exactly what you are going through! I empathize with you, having had to move so many times in my own lifetime.
As much as I loved a house or ministry that I had to leave and felt unsure of what was to come, God always smiled and said “just wait and see”.
Invariably, (most of the time), I was surprised and loved my new place.
I hope and pray that you will feel the same, this time around.
Blessings this Lent. Josita

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Jessica March 2, 2020 at 10:37 am

In the past 12 months, I have moved homes 6 times with my husband in the first year of marriage. It was a result of unexpected health issues, career changes and dynamics with in-laws. I get desiring comfort, and not realizing comfort becoming our “god.” As a newlywed and as a woman who wants a nesting place, I was fixated on this vision of a home and all the idealistic parts of it (lots of children, a garden, a van, chickens and pets, a husband who can support us so I can be a stay-at-home mom, etc). I had spent the last 2 years preparing for this “perfect home”.
On our 4th residence, we were feeling homeless (though we had a humble apartment in a ghetto neighborhood), I had to work 2 jobs, my husband too sick to work, driving a broken down sedan, and no children because of health reasons. We went to the one place that still felt like Home- the closest Catholic church where Jesus was waiting in the tabernacle. I asked God in my aching weary heart, “Where is the “abundant life” you promised me? You’ve led me to marriage vocation, and I followed.”

I felt God say to my heart, “I gave you him (my husband). He’s your abundant life.” Boom. My spouse’s presence has been the only constant in all this movement.

As Cindy Tutts said, Surrender and Detachment are the bigger treasures. A week ago, we finally got settled in where we hope can be a longer term home (at least a year). Here we are away from a lot of “excess noise” and we really feel like our lives are finally past the cold bitter winter season where we were heavily pruned and stripped bare so we can grow deeper roots in our relationship with God and each other. We like to believe we’re now ready to blossom into the season of spring.

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Maggie March 2, 2020 at 11:24 am

Dear Sister Melanie,
How do you know for sure that the Lord was speaking to you? I have a hard time differentiating between my “ego chatter” and hearing the Lord’s voice.

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Nancy Dobney March 2, 2020 at 12:14 pm

This made me want to cry. I have moved so many, many times in my life. Our last move my husband said we will move only one more time and it’s either to the nursing home or the cemetery. It was funny at the time. Things are so bad between us so me moving on my own ways heavy on my mind. I fear leaving my home where I’ve been for the past 10 years; I fear being alone; I fear finances; I fear hurt feelings, anger, resentment; I fear everything about this. Yet, I find myself wondering everyday what God is calling me to do, where to go, to trust Him, that he has great plans for me, and I have a great lesson to learn. I love your words…..”because I think the world of you!” SUCH hope and trust in those words.

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Carol Kapostasy March 2, 2020 at 11:10 pm

Dear Nancy,
I was deeply moved by the path you’re on right now. You will be in my daily thoughts & prayers.
You know I have this way of explaining what comes our way:
When we enter the world I think our life is like a deck of cards. Some of our life cards are awesome, some just so-so, & others full of fear, doubt & change. We’ve no choice in which ones we get & when. Some pull a card that sends us home to God earlier than we would like, some are extreme challenges & tests of faith, some make us grateful to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Regardless, God is our Ace in the hole! He is always there to revel in our happiness, comfort us in our sadness, fears & disappointments AND lead us over the bridge into His garden.
In the meant time, take comfort in knowing you have faith, friends, & loved ones to be by your side.

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Michelle Rabb March 3, 2020 at 12:16 am

Nancy, we walk a parallel road. I will be praying for you. Please don’t fear. Trust God and follow His lead. Michelle

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Patt Germann March 2, 2020 at 12:28 pm

We’ve moved quite a lot due to military service first and job opportunities, second. Our kids are pretty flexible and have flourished – in part because of those moves, I believe. Me — there was only one time I really resisted and actually told my husband I did NOT want to move. We did, of course. As it turns out, our son ultimately met his future spouse in that place. That blessing along with many others have been in my life – at every place we’ve lived. We’ve always found our place in our parish and our faith has grown each time. I lived the first 18 years of my life in the same place – same school, same classmates. Moving was not in my wheelhouse until I married. But, I’ve learned some about myself with each move. At a retreat once we were asked to tell what we think is our greatest strength/gift and immediately I thought “flexibility”(not the physical kind!). So often people who have never moved ask how I can do that and I really don’t know except through God’s grace of putting me in the right place at the right time. Now I move twice a year — to Texas in winter and Minnesota in summer…and have friends and family and blessings in both places. May you find peace and joy in your new space.

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Sandy S March 2, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Sr Melanie I loved your metaphor today sister really really loved it. God is not asking me to physically move forward but just move forward. Not to worry about the future. To know that he’ll be with me. At a certain age all that starts to be frightening. Thank you for being there. thank you for your wit thank you. You are God’s gift. Sandy

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Madeleine March 2, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Hope u are settled now. Some of our sisters were with you in S. Carolina Sisters workshop. They brought back to us your Hanging onto Hope book…..beautiful , blessings Madeleine (CSJB)

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Annie March 2, 2020 at 3:54 pm

Moving is hard. Leaving where we’ve become comfortable, where you know where things are, can be draining—even if it’s a good move. Places hold memories and our energy. Be sure to take time to do some leave-taking and gather up the energy, the memories, and yes, even to thank that old house for holding you, sheltering you and the memories. I remember reading about someone who was looking at a house to possibly buy it. The person came to one small closet-sized room and asked, “What was this room used for? It has such amazing energy.” The owner responded, “That was my husband’s prayer room.”

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carol March 2, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Melannie, I once heard the definition of a Pilgrim as “one who goes lightly through life with her/his eye on a holy place.” Could this be
a time of pilgrimage for you and your sisters? Imagine what a holy
place you will be finding!

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Gayle March 2, 2020 at 9:18 pm

Melannie, this has to be one of the best of your Sunflower Seeds! I enjoy all of them but this one applies to so many areas of life. Blessings as you move “once again!”

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Jacquelyn March 3, 2020 at 7:35 am

Sr. Melanie,
This post was so precious and meaningful to me. I recently “retired” from a wonderful job because I completed a master’s degree in a new field. I have been in limbo for two months, still not knowing where this next move is going to take me. I remember from my anatomy and physiology classes many years ago that about 120 days every red blood cell in our body is replaced with new cells. Outer layers of skin are replaced every 2 to
3 weeks, and bones take about ten years to be replaced with all new cells.
As that is accomplished, we are continually being remade in the process. So too with our life moves, we have the choice to be created anew. I pray for us all that we may embrace our moves with an adventurous spirit and wonder and have the grace to see the new creation we are continually becoming in our movings. Many blessing and thank you for your blog.
Jackie from Texas

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David March 3, 2020 at 7:41 am

Sister,
Thank you for your reflection. Why has God brought you to me now? Why did He give you this reflection to share now?
I and my wife are in the midst of retiring and selling a business we have owned for 25 years. This too is a move of significance for us. At times exciting, at times terrifying and the feelings are much different than when we were moving in our 30s and 40s. But to do it with fellow travelers (like those sharing comments), other friends and family, it will be fun stepping into the unknown… with a little curiosity, humor and gratitude.

You would never know that 30 years ago a close group of friends ( not thespians) performed Godspell in our parish. To see and hear that again this morning during meditation was powerful for me beyond words. God is good!

May your new residence bring you a fresh new perspective on God and may his word return with abundance in your life.

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Mary Therese March 3, 2020 at 9:07 am

This is beautiful. Thank you.

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Tom March 3, 2020 at 8:09 pm

Melannie, I think what will be more difficult than moving out is the eventuality that one day you will drive by just to take a nostalgic look at the old house and it will no longer be there. So many people tell of this experience, especially when an elderly relative asks them to go by the old homestead so they can have one last look…..and it’s gone or, even worse, in deplorable condition.
Meanwhile, on the spiritual level, it is wonderful to find a new home in the company of “those other people” whom you discover to be just like yourself.

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Mary E Nolan March 4, 2020 at 8:50 am

Dear sister Melanie,
I do so love the music from Godspel. And Three Things I Pray will always fill grace filled emotion. One of our Easter masses begins with , Prepare Yea The Way Of The Lord and that one, too stirs my heart and makes me smile.
Thank you for bringing this gift!
Mary

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Sr. Lucille Blais March 4, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Dear Sr. Melanie,
I always look forward to Monday’s eager to read your presentation. You are so creative and surprise me each time.
I felt for you as you described your need to move and could identify with you also. I too have had many moves, most of which were OK but I can remember two that were very, very difficult and caused me much paiin. However, I was not as noble as you to discuss it with God. I got back to my Provincial to try to convince her it wasn’t a good move for whatever my reason. She who had prayed most likely more than I, was convinced it was God’s will and His Grace would accompany me. To “Fiat” not too much with the heart, but I did move and one of these times proved to be the 10 happiest years of my life.
My last move, is my “forever home” which initially caused me many tears the first year because it is my final home. I prayed, got involved with activities, read, challenged myself with “brain games” and acquired a great deal of peace, contentment and happiness.
I thank God for the many moves, hard as some were, because they tested me and made me stronger person in various ways.

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Maryann March 4, 2020 at 2:00 pm

What a beautiful entry, Sr. Melannie. Like many here, I can relate to the uncertainty you expressed at this move that’s been placed before you. We put so much energy into building certainty, or at least steadiness, in our lives. Then, whether we invite it or not, we are sent packing (sometimes literally) in a direction we did not anticipate or are not sure we want to go. “The future doesn’t look as expansive as it used to look.” It’s hard not to feel worn out sometimes.

I love the point in your essay where God replies, “I am asking you to get up and move on.” That’s it. Simple. Peaceful. All will be well.
You, and others here navigating challenging changes, will remain in my prayers. Thank you for fostering this supportive community.
Maryann

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Clarissa March 23, 2020 at 9:34 pm

Sister,

I am catching up on my emails now that I have too much time.. Practicing social distancing. I read your blog regularly but this one especially touched me today. The last line touched me so deeply. “…only because I think the world of you too!” I think I felt this so deeply because I am not able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist at this time. Rewind 5 years and I would not have cared either way about even going to Mass. I am not ashamed to admit that because it shows me how much I have grown in love for our Lord and lets other people know that at any time we can come into love with God. It all started with instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to add going to Daily Mass. I fell in love. There is a different intimacy you develop with daily mass. It was one of the greatest nudges God could have given me. Only because of it could I now long for Him so deeply. I am so happy to have read this blog today and say with you that I think the world of Him too!

Blessings!

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