Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Challenging One’s Sense of Self

Usually in my blog posts I’m trying to think about some theological or religious or ministry issue.  This time, it’s more personal.  This move to Dallas has me rattled in unexpected ways.

I’m a preacher’s kid.  Preachers’ kids and “army brats” have something in common.  We moved a lot as kids.  I think these experiences give us a sense of rootlessness that people who grew up in the same place have a hard time understanding.  In high school I remember feeling very envious of my friends who had known each other since kindergarten.

We’ve been in Winfield 14 years.  Our kids all graduated from Winfield High School.  Three of the four are or have been students at Southwestern College (one “escaped” to the U. of Kansas).  While I wasn’t looking, I developed roots.  And now I’m pulling them up and trying to re-plant them in Dallas.

To clarify: I’m not surprised about the grief I feel about leaving SC and Winfield.  SC is a great place to work and the community (in the theological sense) is precious to us.  At the same time, I’m excited about the job at SMU.  I’m getting acquainted with my new colleagues and looking forward eagerly to working with them.  I’m confident God has called me to this new work.

What has me rattled is the lifestyle change that is challenging my sense of self.  I like to call myself a hayseed.  I grew up in very remote, rural places and small towns.  I’m not really a farm boy, but I went to school with them, stayed over at their houses, drove tractors and hauled hay and cut wheat with them.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time horseback and working cattle.

So, this move to Dallas has the feel of the country boy moving to the big city.  Coming home from a house-hunting trip to Dallas a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with Joni about the challenge to my sense of self this move was engendering.  I started thinking about her dad, who, except for a stint in the Army, lived in the same rural area his entire 89 year life.

Even as I write this blog, I struggle for the appropriate terms.  I like to think of myself in a certain way, but it’s probably not very accurate.   Thus, at a deeper level I am coming to terms with myself in this move.  I’m kind of embarrassed to realize that people who know me understand it better than I do myself, though isn’t it often the case that others see us more clearly than we do ourselves?

I’m beginning to get it.  In some fundamental, near-visceral way, this move to Dallas – and to the new ministry – is a mysteriously providential fit.  Still, it challenges my sense of self.  Clarity is sometimes a scary thing.

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June 24, 2009 - Posted by | Religion

3 Comments »

  1. I have some understanding of what you’re experiencing. My father was in the Navy while I was growing up so we moved every couple of years. The shortest move we ever had was from Hayama to Yokosuka (short in miles, but it was the difference between living in a Japanese house in the Japanese countryside to living in an American built house on an American base). When people ask me where I’m from I have to ask them what they mean. Sometimes I say I’m from “around,” sometimes I tell them, “I’m from a small town in Illinois, though I’ve never lived there.”

    I’ve lived where I am now for 6 years – the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life. From my early life experience, after living someplace a couple of years my body starts to say, “MOVE – MOVE!” (Except when it remembers all the book boxes.) Two of my children have graduated from hs here. My youngest has memories only of here and Houston.

    Comment by Richard H | June 27, 2009 | Reply

  2. Steve,
    Hope that you have found the right place to park and have adjusted to the chandeliers! I never thought about you landing in a condo; it sounds like you are in the Oaklawn area. You might want to make a visit to the Pastoral Counseling and Education Center on Oaklawn. The executive director, Wayne Albrecht, is a good guy–a Mennonite with some KS connections.
    I am sure that you will be busy enough that you don’t need to be mowing grass and fixing plumbing, so condo should work well. Also, convenient location. Kansas hayseeds can survive in Dallas; I am sure you will do well. I enjoy your blog.

    Comment by Larry | August 3, 2009 | Reply

  3. Thanks, Larry! We’re actually north of the university, on Northwest Highway. It’s an absolutely fantastic location. I never have to get on a freeway unless I want to. I can drive either to Love Field or DFW (15 minutes for Love and 20-30 for DFW).

    I’ll pay a visit to the Pastoral Counseling and Education Center. If you ever get down this way, let’s have some dinner.

    Comment by steverankin | August 4, 2009 | Reply


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