There’s No Substitute for Presence. So I Uprooted My Family.

There’s No Substitute for Presence. So I Uprooted My Family. by JEN POLLOCK MICHEL for Christianity Today

How the conviction to honor my aging parents convinced me to move home.

I don’t necessarily believe God advertises on billboards—but I had to wonder last August.

My husband and I were sitting in a Chicago park, talking about our pressing responsibilities to our aging parents. It was the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that we had crossed the Canada–United States border to visit them: my mother in Ohio, my husband’s mother in Illinois. My mother had particularly suffered from the year of social isolation, a hardship compounded by the toll of caring for her ailing husband. For the first time since moving to Toronto a decade before, we wondered, Is it time to go home?

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That question hung in the August heat, and presumably, it was answered by the billboard I then noticed on the other side of the Edens Expressway.

Tired of Illinois taxes? Move to Ohio!

In 2011, my husband accepted a Toronto-based position with his American company. We expected, as the company did, that this would be a short-term opportunity for our family. We quickly plugged into a wonderful church in Toronto and grew to love our new city. Though our initial visa was approved only for three years, we chose to extend it. Then extend it again. And again. In 2017, we finally gained permanent resident status in Canada. We bought a house. We spent two years renovating that house. We moved back into the house in October 2019 and intended to stay.

Until last summer—and the billboard and fears for our aging parents.

We spent the fall praying and involving our community in a process of discerning God’s will. And what became unavoidably clear to me, especially as I plodded through my daily Bible reading plan, was the emphasis in Scripture on honoring one’s parents. A host of proverbs, like Proverbs 23, hailed over me:

Do not despise your mother when she is old.

May she who gave you birth be joyful!

What a pleasure to have children who are wise.

Those proverbs chastened me. Though my husband and I never wanted to neglect our parents, neither had they been an important consideration in our decisions. We moved for jobs; we moved for graduate school. We moved for opportunity—and opportunity always seemed to call.

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