Monday, December 22, 2008


By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

Houses can be built in a month but it takes years to build a home. That’s because home is much more than the place in which we live. Home is people and routine and familiarity and refuge. Home is where we fit; it’s a sense of belonging. Home is the God-ordained anchor for the rhythm of earthly life. The deeper the roots of home, the more of our identity is wrapped up in it. Sooner or later, though, we are called to leave home, and it is often not until then that we discover just how deeply our souls are entrenched. Teenagers head off to college, professionals face job transfers and missionaries are sent overseas. And no matter how good and right and exciting the opportunity, there is sadness.
What we call home is always changing. Sometimes it is not we who leave home; it is home that leaves us. It changed for me when my brother got engaged to be married. I was thrilled with the prospect of a sister-in-law, and I loved the woman he’d chosen, but mixed into my joy was a good bit of sadness. My brother was, in a very real sense, leaving our family to start to a new one of his own. “Every change, not matter how good, involves loss,” my mother told me at the time, and over the years I’ve learned how very right she was.
When we are the ones who leave, we find that the excitement of our new adventure fades quickly, and once it does, homesickness so easily creeps in. We miss our family. We miss our friends. We miss our church. We miss the familiarity. We miss the unconditional acceptance. There’s isolation in the pressure we feel to hide who we really are until we know people well enough to let our guard down. There’s strangeness in having to rely on Map Quest to get, well, everywhere. For those who leave home often, starting over yet again—new friends, new church, new neighborhood—feels like a heavy weight.
Leaving a well established home was one of the most difficult things I ever experienced. The homesickness was overwhelming. Where did I belong? Where was I going—really? To whom did I belong? Did my presence or absence in a particular place really matter to anyone? I didn’t know who I was anymore. But God was teaching me something important, not only about home but about people about you and me. Home is not who we are. And all we have at home is not where our comfort and security really lie. If we seek contentment from home, we will never find it because all that makes a home is constantly shifting, either we leave home or someone else does. Our employer comes under new management, turning a good job sour. Our church falls apart because the pastor has a moral failure. Home is a lot more fragile than we realize.
Back then I was learning this lesson, but in the unfamiliarity of yet another new place I was still homesick. I questioned my decision to live so far from home. Had I done the right thing? Life was good in the new place, but I missed my people, my church, and the customs of my community. Right around this time I learned that a pastor friend had been approached about pasturing a church in the town where he’d grown up, a town far away from where he was currently serving. Despite being far from home, my friend had made a lifetime commitment to the church where he served, and I wondered how he was handling what was surely a strong temptation to return to his roots. When I asked him, he was honest about how very appealing the offer had been to him and his wife, but he said, “We aren’t taking the offer because this life isn’t about going home.”
His words uncover for all of us the path to contentment in a faraway place. Contentment comes when we discover that home is much more about where we are going than where we have come from. Home is about the people of God more than about our families on earth. But that doesn’t mean we must do without the blessings of home in the here and now. Here is God’s promise: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home” (Ps. 68:5-6a)
We can have the contentment of home right now, wherever we are, because home for us is wherever God has us. In fact, home is more than this---home is Christ, who unites us to God our Father. In this home alone can we find contentment because it is the only home that we will never have to leave?


But just as prosperity does not lock in happiness, awful circumstances don’t have to lock it out. Do we believe that? Most of us don’t when we are faced with unwanted singleness, an unhappy marriage, infertility, financial hardship, broken relationships, terminal illness, or regret. In such circumstances we can’t imagine anything but unhappiness. What choice do we have? We do have a choice, actually. We can be happy, not necessarily in the American way but in the Biblical way. It is all a matter of what we live for. If we live for the good times even for those given to us by God, we will never find happiness because seasons of wilderness, waiting, and withholding are just as much, if not more, a part of life on this earth as seasons of ease and peace.
Happiness, or contentment, comes from where we look and what we believe, not from what we have. In determining how to think and feel about our lives, we tend to create separate categories for happiness and contentment. In our mental hierarchy we put happiness at the top. Happiness is when we get the things we have dreamed of and when life goes our way. Contentment, so we think, is secondary. We see it as the consolation emotion we must settle for when actual happiness is lacking. “I’m not really happy with the way things are, but I’m content for now.” Yet contentment and happiness are one and the same if we understand these words from a Biblical perspective and orient our lives there.

Have a Merry Christmas and May Christ be Your ALL.

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