The Spiritual Discipline of Itinerancy

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

Tomorrow we are moving.


My husband and I will be married 18 years in July.

This will be our 16th house. 16 homes. 11 towns. 3 countries.

You could say I am used to moving.

So that is why when this surprise opportunity to rent a home that will allow us build vision and increase the impact of our maternity hostel ministry, we jumped on it.

And when we learned that we had to pack and be ready to go in five days, I didn’t freak out.

We move. It is what we do.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

There is the physically hard part. The overwhelmed what-are-we-doing-why-are-we-doing-this-again part.

The anxiety over finding out we have to switch internet providers, which in a developing nation could mean weeks out of service.

The compiled stress of the car breaking down the day before the move.

All of that.

Plus two adults, five kids, two dogs, twenty chickens, a full-time ministry, a homeschool which all need to still function—and at the same time be packed and prepared for the move.

But there is the spiritual aspect, too.

We move as the Holy Spirit opens doors for us because we feel like we have been called to a life of detachment and itinerancy.

St. Ignatius defines detachment as “making use of those things that help to bring us closer to God and leaving aside those things that don’t.”

Itinerancy comes from the lives of early preachers and missionaries who were always ready to be on the move to wherever the Spirit was leading them, following the footsteps of the earliest disciples and preachers and even Christ himself.

It is not our goal to move as much as possible.

But we do desire to live in a spirit of obedience and docility to the will of God. And practicing detachment and being open to more itinerance than the average family makes that more possible.

But it doesn’t make it easy.

This is a spiritual discipline that requires committing myself anew over and over again. In fact. I’ve rethought this very commitment about 25 times this week alone.

This life of detachment and itinerancy means we stay in a place or home only as long as it serves to bring us closer to God. And since God knows we tend to draw near to Him when He pushes us outside our comfort zone often, that has meant a lot of moves for us.

It also means we have to be very intentional about how much we acquire when it comes to material things. Now we are by no means hurting for stuff, and we have to keep a constant balance of a healthy lifestyle for our family. We try to keep life simple and stay willing to leave things behind or give them away as each move requires.

It also means that as the maker of home in my house, I have to be very intentional about creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in a home without taking ownership of a place or using a lot of stuff to do it. That is as challenging as it sounds.

It means we constantly are thinking about how to create a rhythm to our lives that speaks of home and safety and comfort that is not attached to any one place.

It means we lean in and listen, leap way more often than feels comfortable, and sometimes stay when we’d rather go.

It means there are countless thresholds in my life that evoke the comfort of home for me, none of which are actually mine.

It means that as missionaries, we learn to love a land and a people and a church and call it home while never getting stuck to one particular building, vision, or plan of our own.

Everything is ours only as long as it is drawing us nearer to Christ.

And I am nearest to Christ when I remember acutely that the shifting sands of this world, even the very best of them, are not my home.

I would not have chosen detachment as the spiritual discipline to dedicate my life to. In fact, I have had many moments in this walk that were less than stellar examples of a surrendered faith.

But I want to live a life surrendered to his leading and obedient to his calling.

For me, that means I move when he says move, regardless of how good that feels in the moment.

It means life stays streamlined enough that four days is all we need to put our hands on everything we own as a family and a ministry, account for its value and decide whether it comes with us our not.

This post originally appeared on the blog of Colleen Mitchell. Colleen submitted it as a part of our High Calling community linkup on Spiritual Disciplines.

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