The Difference Between Settling and Settling IN

I’m standing in my yard, trying to figure out where to put a fire pit. I’ve walked the perimeter, surveyed the land, and I think I want it over by the fence, just beyond the shade of the pine tree. We probably won’t camp this summer, but if we can eat outside and cook some marshmallows over a fire, it will be close enough for me.

These days, I’m mostly at home with my two little boys, not venturing much farther than the playground or grocery store.

I sat on my screened porch watching the thunderstorm the other day, trying to put my finger on the way I’m feeling lately, when it finally came—I’m feeling rather settled.

Oh. No. Red Flag. Curse Word.

Settling is bad!

I was always told not to settle. Never settle for anything less than I deserve or want. They told me settling is the worst thing—it is absolute failure and it promises a disappointing life. So, I set high, high standards for everything (yes, everything), and planned to make it all happen.

Truth be told, life has generally not met those expectations.

So have I settled?

When I first started teaching theology and Bible at Nyack College, a friend told me that if I were still doing it 5-10 years later, she’d know I settled. I was planning to serve God and the church overseas full-time, and anything less was just that—less. Settling.

I expected to spend only two years at Nyack.

But that’s not what happened.

3 years into my tenure, I started a PhD program; 8 years in, they started to call me “Dr.” and Assistant Professor; 12 years in, they promoted me to Associate Professor; and just this past May, Nyack gave me an award for 15 years of faithful service.

So did I settle?

In my twenties, I made an exhaustive list of things my husband should be or do, including guitar-playing-worship-leading and mountain hiking; by thirty, I’d thrown it out and only prayed for about five character traits. My amazing husband doesn’t play the guitar (or even really sing), and I’m still trying to convince him that hiking is the very best way up mountains.

So did I settle?

Just last year, I made a list of things I wanted in a house and prayed for them. We found a house that didn’t have it all, but has potential for it all, and we bought it. The layout’s a little awkward—to get to my sons’ bedroom from ours, I have to walk through the living room, kitchen, and dining room. Many people call this kind of place a “starter house,” but I plan to live here for years and years.

So did I settle?

It’s certainly possible that my 21-year-old self might think I settled if she saw her future as a nerdy prof, wife, and mom in the USA.

I don’t think she’d be right, though.

You see, I think there’s a difference between settling and settling in, and when young, we can’t really tell that difference.

I stayed in my job at Nyack College because I quickly found that it was the perfect job for who God had made me to be. I settled in to who I am and God’s call, and am still there.

I married my husband because I settled in to the fact that guitar-playing and mountain climbing are not necessary for the perfect life-partner for me.

We bought our house because we chose to physically settle in to this area, and honestly, this is the perfect house for us!

Truth is, I couldn’t be happier about my job, my husband and family, and our house!

Why am I so happy?

I’m happy because I chose to settle in.

I’ve settled in to reality—about myself and about life in general.

I’ve settled in to what’s in front of me, not what’s out there somewhere.

I’ve settled in to what God has provided for me now.

How do I know I haven’t settled?

Settling is doing something that we know is not God’s will simply because we want to have/do whatever it is now. Settling is staying in a job when we know we should work elsewhere; settling is marrying someone we know we’re not supposed to marry just because we want to marry; settling is staying somewhere because we’re afraid to go anywhere else.

Settling in is different. Settling in is being fully present in a surprise job from God. Settling in is marrying the person who has surprisingly unexpected characteristics that fit yours so well. Settling in is staying and putting roots down.

Your settling in may look different from mine—perhaps you’re settling in to the international job I wanted; perhaps you’re settling in to a guitar-playing-worship-leading-mountain-climbing spouse, or even settling in to singleness; maybe you’re settling in to your nice apartment.

I’m feeling settled, and it feels like full contentment. Anything could change at any moment, and that would be okay, too. I’d plan to settle in to that as well.

If you’re settling in, walk the perimeter of your place, whatever it is. Survey the land and call it good. Make a special place for yourself there, even if it’s not a literal fire pit. Sit back and enjoy the blessing of God.

(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)

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