An Uneasy Stability

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Stability does not come easy.

In this world, in a world so focused on movement (and specifically, advancement) stability is seen more as sin than virtue. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder, or moving to a bigger and better home, there is so much in this world that calls us from where we currently are into something that promises to be better.

I think that there is some wisdom in that. I think that there are times where we are called from one place to another. I feel that God has equipped each of us with gifts and skills that might be better used in different places, at different times.

There is this wisdom in stability.

And yet, I find an inward tension between these definitions of success, and a deep internal desire to stay in place, to invest in a neighbourhood, and to love it through good times and bad.

Thing is though, I’m not sure I would have come to that conclusion without leaving home.

That conclusion, or at least, provisional answer, was only possible after leaving my suburban home, moving to the big city, and being confronted with a variety of ideas that I had never encountered before.

Reading books, meeting people that I may not have otherwise met. The move challenged my worldview, challenged the things I took for granted, set me off-balance for long enough to challenge so many of my assumptions about life, the universe and everything.

There is this wisdom in stability.

And yet I know that without instability, without new experiences, without feeling like a stranger in a foreign land (even if that land was only Toronto), I might be in the same headspace I was when I was 18. And that kinda freaks me out. That earlier version of me would not understand the current model.

In the least.

The things I now talk about, the things I now care so deeply about, were not even on the radar. It took a series of disorienting moments, experiences, and times away from home to call my assumptions into question.

I remember during my undergraduate degree taking a 4th year seminar on The History of Sexuality. I took it because it scared, fascinated, challenged me. I took it because I knew it would push me, challenge my own boundaries and assumptions. I ran into a Christian friend of mine outside that seminar room one winter’s day. They couldn’t figure out why I would be in such a course.

As we know, the bible is very clear on issues of sexuality.

Why would you take a course that involved the reading of Foucault and other lesser devils? Did you really have an entire 3-hour seminar discussing fetishes? Yes, yes I did.

Experiences like these were not always easy. They tested my faith, and reformed it. It was a period of deconstruction and reconstruction. I wouldn’t change this for the world. I needed to test my own assumptions and my own faith in a world different from the one in which I had been raised.

Maybe that’s part of it. There’s wisdom in stability, and yet, there is something powerful in what instability brings. Sometimes instability finds us, and sometimes we need to seek it out.

But I guess that’s the luxury of the upwardly mobile – to seek instability, knowing that we can return to a place of stability and safety if we want to.

I live in no war zone. I live in no violent neighbourhood. We have struggles, to be sure. But for now, at least, there’s not a lot to worry about.

Playing Ultimate Frisbee last night on a field surrounded by monster homes, and with a breathtaking view of the mountains, I realised that any instability I currently feel is, in some way, controlled.

But what if my community was actually in chaos? What would I do then?

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

2 Responses to “An Uneasy Stability”

  1. byronborger

    Thanks for the remarkable piece….being “stretched” and even dislocated (often in college classes if they are taken seriously) is a time of growth and change and you shared this journey really well.

    I wonder if it romanticized a bit this notion that “newer” is better than “older.” “All these trinkets of temptations, something new for something old” is how the Indigo Girls sing about it in one song. What if the traditional wisdom against the newfangled ideas in the classroom are right after all? (I”m not saying that about any of the details of Foucault of sexuality.)

    The new headspace maybe is progress, but maybe not. That is what you’re struggling with in the rubric of “stability” and “instability” I guess but there is this sense among some young adults that the new is always better, that deconstruction of ancient ways is needed because, well, those old ways are so tired. Unless, of course, they aren’t. That “testing” our faith is noble since just trusting it is “inauthentic” or something…

    Anyway, it got me to thinking about cultural discernment, again, and I am truly grateful. Sending it out to others…gratefully.

  2. andrew

    Byron – Many thanks for your comments here. I struggle in this world where ‘newer is better.’ I know that I often buy in to that theory in my own weakness, with trinkets and temptations before me. Is an e-reader really better than a book? It’s novel, but books, man do I love books.

    (why then do I spend more time curating facebook pages than reading – or writing, for that matter?)

    The contradictions of the city are many, and our lives are littered with them. I return time and again to the question: What will ground me in something ancient, something wise, something true? But more than this, what will both ground me, and help me to discern how to live into the ancient, wise and true in the here-and-now.

    Authenticity may have something to do with it. I’ll have to think through some of those implications in more depth.


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