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  • Mark Whitten

Leaving Multeown

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

For more than a decade, I have watched Columbia, Tennessee (more popularly known as "Muletown USA" by its locals) transform from a sleepy has-been, Southern town to a budding model of quaint culture and commercial progress. So why did I leave?

Known mostly for its annual parade of mules, which attracts over 300,000 visitors from all over the world, along with being the home of eleventh President of the United States, James K. Polk, Muletown has experienced an awakening. As the suburban sprawl of Nashville continues to experience exponential growth, more and more artist, investors, families and musicians are beginning to discover the little treasure located about 45 minutes south on I-65 from Nashville called Columbia. Outfitted with its iconic town square and its growing number of cute cafe's, music venues and boutiques, Columbia is poised to continue to its cultural renaissance along with its commercial prospects.

Okay, enough with the travel promo, go check it out if you're ever in middle Tennessee, but contact me before you go and I can give you some great places to go...Why did we decide to leave after things were just starting to get good? I mean, our son Jed was in an amazing school whose high school just won the national mock-trial championship, we were rooted, connected, and firmly planted within the community, not to mention the fact that we had just helped to establish a new church plant there in town. I had a good job, good neighbors, Julie's business was growing, my parents lived close by, as well as friends we had cultivated for many years. So what gives?

To be honest, I'm still asking that question now that we've planted ourselves in South Florida...Yep, way down there...near Miami.

Aside: one of the greatest things about blogging is that I get to write to myself. It helps me figure-out my life.

What makes a family decide to uproot and, leave everything safe, comfortable, convenient and familiar? To sell a beautiful piece of land on 22 acre, quit our jobs, say goodbye to our family, friends and neighbors? I mean, we were firmly established.

As I'm writing this I keep hearing the words "soul-sizing".

Sometimes we need to need to soul-size our lives. To me, soul-sizing means aligning our environment with what's going on in our hearts.

Lucy, lemme splain. Too often we get paralyzed by people, overwhelmed by our junk, squeezed by toxic relationships, or burned out by our own pious charades. We all have dreams, bucket lists, and creative pursuits that we put on the back-burner thinking that someday the stars will align, the children will be grown, and/or the financial windfall will come. Meanwhile, the heart slowly dies. Soul-sizing is sort of like putting a defibrillator on our lives in an effort to revive our true selves.

Problem: We take too much stock in the negative opinions of others that plant doubt in our minds when we mention our dreams. Dreams then slowly turn into distant hope. Hope gets deferred. Heart gets sick. We become depressed, resentful and bitter. Death.

Our want-to's get overshadowed by "what-ifs. And so we surrender to the comfort and convenience of where we already are.

With well-meaning Christians, this can be even more difficult. We get trapped in the "Is it God's will?" thing, and never end up doing anything with our lives. I'm not sure God is so concerned with the details of our decisions as He is with the heart behind our intention. He can conform you into the image of His son wherever you are and whatever job you have. He's also got this thing called "the adjustment bureau" which somehow keeps our lives on track with His ultimate blueprint, so long as we stay connected with Him relationally.

We could learn from the ancient Celtic Christians who valued pilgrimage as a major spiritual tenet. To uproot one's self from the mundane, the familiar and follow "The Wild Goose" (the ancient Celtic Christians' nickname for the Holy Spirit) and make a journey to a distant place for a spiritual purpose, was something they not only encouraged, but felt was a necessary spiritual practice.

Sometimes, soul-sizing involves pilgrimage. This could be taking a day trip across the county or moving overseas for a year. It could also mean getting in a boat like St. Brendan did praying that God would guide him with the wind of the Spirit. (The modern day equivalent to this might be a camper van or RV and just heading West or East).

When we leave our familiar environment, we leave behind many of the spiritual forces and negative vibes that govern those areas, which enables us to evaluate our lives and hear God with a bit more clarity.

Soul-Sizing could also mean purging your house, your files, your emails, your relationships, etc. I guess the beautiful thing about moving or becoming nomadic is that purging happens by default.

There's something magical about creating distance. Distance allows the trivial pursuits, that weave about our lives like so many silk chains, to simply fade away and make room for the things that truly matter.

Distance can also delineate seasonal relationships from life-long relationships. The life-long ones will have staying power (no matter the distance or time) and will undergo a sort of stripping-down to essentials themselves whereas the superficial or seasonal ones will find a nice place in our memories to dwell.

So to answer my own question, why did we leave Multeown? After a solid decade or more in rural/small-town Tennessee, we needed to soul-size our lives, our relationships, our possessions, and our creative passions. We needed to go on Pilgrimage. We needed to chase "The Wild Goose". Plus Julie wanted to live near the beach (I wanted the mountains, but she and God won-out).

Will we ever come back? To visit? Of course. To stay? I can't say.

What I can say though, is that even though our journey has been a bit scary and uncertain at times, it has made a beautiful difference!

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