It was late 2013, and I was walking to dinner at a conference when my eyes caught a glimpse of these artfully written words:
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19
My heart leapt with excitement as I thought about the things God is able to do when he does a new thing. In their context these words tell the story of God bringing the Jews out of captivity. As it was with their forefathers, this new thing would come with a promise of hope and deliverance alongside hints that it would certainly not be easy.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2, ESV)
The year following that conference was the beginning of an unearthing. My entire world shook with upheaval and many times I felt my circumstances overwhelming and consuming me.
My mother who had lived with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years was at the point where she needed full time care. My father, also in frail health, decided since he couldn’t take care of her any longer, he would serve us better by going back to his home country, Iran. My church that was not only my place of worship and center of community but also my work place was in a tidal wave of crisis when our pastor stepped down.
Everything was shattered and picking up all the pieces was too much. It felt like we were being leveled.
God provided for my mom while gracing me with supernatural strength in the midst of incredible sadness. I saw the rising up and falling of a church: her most beautiful side as well as the ugly. For me personally, fatigue and doubt in my calling set in. It was hard to care for my mom, help lead our church through these murky waters and still be a good wife and a mom. I was at capacity yet deep inside my soul, knew this season of change was not over.
Through praying, fasting, and asking God for direction, we believed we had done all we could do for my family and our community. It started to feel like we were swimming upstream as things began to settle around us. Grief began to settle in our hearts. We ached knowing were being pulled away. God was continuing with his theme of doing a new thing for our family.
What began as a trip to visit some close friends in Nashville became a scouting trip for my husband. Three months later we put our home on the market, packed up a moving truck and our four kids and headed 2000 miles east. As if our family hadn’t experienced enough change in the preceding two years, this was a whole new level for us as we left the best community of people we have ever had, friends who are like family and everything familiar to us.
The Jews who heard the words of the prophet Isaiah were also longing to settle into a place of their own, a place called home.
For generations, their story was one of uprooting, shaking their foundations of comfort both in their hearts and as well as their location. They were God’s chosen people, a people of his own possession. God was as he is with us, always taking them from one place to the next, through the wilderness and the times when luxuries like milk and honey were pouring over. Home for them had become ethereal. Through their desperate longing for home, their story includes a clinging to worthless things that eventually lead them away from the One who was their home.
I do the same thing. In our move across the country I came face to face with the truth that I hold on to things and people tighter than I have held on to God. Comfort and shelter from the storms of life, security, protection, affirmation and love are all things that are found in a good home and community. I hunger for these things for myself and for those who have been placed in my care. While these are all good and necessary things, my longing for them can easily lead me to displace my affections for God. We should be about these things and be after these things.
Yet there is nothing like losing that security or having it all uprooted to make us long for Christ, our real home.
It’s been said “home is where the heart is.” The people of Israel were in captivity in Babylon and their hearts were delighting in things that did not profit (Isaiah 44:9). If I delight more in my people than my God, more in my earthly home than in my citizenship in heaven, if I delight more in the work God is doing through me than God himself, then my heart is likely to be bound up in things that will not profit myself or the people around me.
I’m learning that I will be a student of this process for a lifetime. Understanding what it is to find my rest in God, my true home, no matter where he takes me or who is around me, will always beckon me to open my eyes and search for His presence.
Where is “home” for you? Why?
What step of courage could you take if you believed that home was in God’s presence, not in a specific place? Have you ever stepped out in faith in that way? Will you?