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Stranger in a Strange Land: Collin Hansen

Why Place Matters

This is a guest column by Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. With John Woodbridge, he co-authored A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir (Zondervan). He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

For the first time I live in a place that would miss me if I left.

The place I was raised either expected me to leave or at least never bothered to make a compelling case for me to stay, despite the literal roots my family had planted for generations in the land on which we lived. Then I lived for more than a decade outside a major northern metropolis, drawn like many others for school and then for work. I met my wife there. I loved our friends. But without family in the area my ties to the place eventually frayed. My wife and I longed to live somewhere people knew us for something more than our alma mater or jobs. We looked forward to a life interrupted by the birthday parties, holidays, and unscheduled conversations that we had sacrificed to work long hours and advance our careers.

In the last three places I lived, people were happy for me when I left. But today I could not leave before initiating many painful conversations with friends and family who count on us. There is a new kind of unease, however, that I've discovered by finally planting myself in one place. You grow close with people suffering the same restlessness you felt somewhere else. They leave for love. They leave for leisure. They leave for life in the great unknown. Love of place is in the eye of the beholder. My home is just another place to my neighbor suffocated by family, familiarity, and formality. Love of place limits our freedom to explore all the other places and find somewhere superior.

"We embrace freedom because we believe fervently in the fullest breadth of individual human possibility, and share a deep conviction that no one's horizons in life should be dictated by the conditions of his or her birth," ...

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