Irrefutable Lessons in the Theology of Geography

Where are you from?
It’s one of the most common questions we ask one another.
And one of the most loaded.
When I was deciding on a college major, at sixteen,
two of my high school advisers discouraged me from choosing writing.
“Little girls from Hope Valley don’t grow up to write books,” they told me
with a certainty that seemed unopposable,
and so I allowed this declaration of destiny by geography
to dictate my choice to study Psychology and Biblical Studies instead of my passion.
I didn’t even question why
if I’d been raised in the next town over,
my counselors would have looked at my stellar GPA, the scores of my educational
testing, and the fact that I’d already been published in teen magazines
and the newspaper
and they would have provided me with different direction.
Location, location, location – apparently it’s not just a deciding factor in real estate.
That’s why now, in my work with families in crisis,
I’m not surprised when parents, children, and the people who interact with them
make certain assumptions
based on their street address.
There are some streets in the towns where I work
where our staff could set up a satellite office and just work door-to-door,
streets with reputations so bad that other families do whatever they can
to avoid making the move to that address,
streets that when they appear next to a child’s name at school
immediately lower academic expectations
and discourage staff from even attempting to engage the parents.
Frightening that one half mile can make the difference between
people seeing you as an individual or
seeing you as a sorry statistic.
And then I sit in homes where people are shocked to be needing my services
because of the neighborhood in which they live.
Somehow they believed that their address
or the price of their home
or the status of their neighbors
would insulate them from the troubles of the common man.
With sweeping hands they indicate their surroundings
and ask me to join them in their understanding
that this geography surely overrides the naked facts of their situation.
In both cases,
the family’s geography holds them back
either from believing they can have a different future
or from accepting the reality of their present life.
The announcement yesterday of
a new pope came hand-in-hand with the question,
“Where is he from?”
His geography of origination was a powerful statement
by the church.
But that is an old, old story.
The geography of Jesus was big news, too.
First of all, that God choosing to relocate from His celestial dwelling to
walk with His people on earth.
And then, that God chose a podunk village,
the Hope Valley of Israel,
to be His residence – Nazareth.
Can any good come from Nazareth?
Because geography isn’t destiny –
Jesus is destiny.
Paul said it this way,
“The God who made the world and everything in it
is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.
Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
 though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”
Acts 17:24-28
Jesus is our true geography.
In Him we live and move and have our being.
And so the possibilities of our lives are as boundless as the heavens
no matter what address appears on our mail.
Jesus is present with us where ever we are
and if we reach out to Him, love Him, obey Him, and operate within His grace
we are citizens of His kingdom
and that is the only zip code that matters.
Where are you from?

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    The Conversation

  1. Heather says:

    Excellent post, Lori!

  2. Love. This.

    I think you should send it to those advisers. Anonymously, of course. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Well look at this–a welfare kid with a brain.” Those words were spoken as two teachers stood over me watching me take a reading placement test. I had just moved from Shannock to Hope Valley and it called for a change in elementary schools. Not only was my address a sorry one, I was a welfare kid! I was in 3rd grade. I’m now 70 years old and I can still hear that teacher’s voice. By the grace of God, I did not let it limit my desire for learning. I became a believer at 13. I’m grateful He didn’t care where I came from or who paid for my lunch. He loved me unconditionally. If only we could love that way. MOMMA

  4. Loved this! Very inspiring.

  5. I love all your posts, Lori, but this is one of my favorites! I hope your writing gets a very wide audience soon, because there are many, many people who need to connect with these truths!