Recently I have been reading through Psalms. The exhortations to praise and the rawness of the emotions within them draw me back time after time. This week something new commanded my attention. It has to do with dwelling.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations (Psalm 90:1).
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).
If you make the Most High your dwelling—even the Lord, who is my refuge—then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent (Psalm 91:9–10).
All those were on one page! Upon reflection I am reminded of two favorite verses:
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in his temple (Psalm 27:4); and
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).
I know why these verses touch me so deeply. I am homeless. So are you. We all are. This world is not our home, and yet, we desperately want it to be! I want a home! I want some permanent address to use on all the forms I have to fill out. I want somewhere my children can point to and say “this is home.” However, it is elusive. In fact, it is deceptive. God is our home. He is our dwelling place.
Yes, we need somewhere to live. Somewhere to sleep. Somewhere to put our stuff. However, the value that we often attach to a home is much more than that. I think this is one of the most painful and valuable lessons of being called to go.
When God calls us to the field, we go willingly. We count what we know of the cost, and we head out into the exciting unknown. Then years later, we find that the cost is much higher. We are in mid-life and have not climbed the real-estate ladder. We have nomadic children who do not identify themselves with any culture, who always feel homesick for the place they are not currently living in, who do not have a sense of place, and who do not know how to answer the simple question “Where are you from?”
I did not think it would be so hard.
I remember the first night we spent in our country of service—a country just emerging from a civil war. We had been overseas for a number of months already doing cultural training in a nearby country. While we were in our training, the director who had “recruited” us was held at gunpoint and consequently decided to resign and take his family “home.” When we finally arrived in our new country of service, all houses had security systems, and everyone was under curfew and on high alert. I read that first night in the psalms:
Blessed be God, my mountain, who trains me to fight fair and well. He is the bedrock on which I stand, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight, the high crag where I run for dear life, while He lays my enemies low.
Psalm 144:1–2 (The Message Bible)
God as my castle was a new idea to me. Yes, God is my fortress; I had heard that phrase enough, but somehow it had not penetrated my assumptions about “where” I live. Now I was in a new country in a little house with enormous beetles clanging into the security lights outside my bedroom windows. A little house where the security system would go off in the middle of the night because our three-year-old daughter had woken up and forgotten where she was and how to get to the bathroom. A little house in a faraway country where the people who invited us were leaving because they had been threatened at gunpoint. Living in a castle sounded wonderful.
Fast-forward 14 years. The Lord as my dwelling place still sounds wonderful. I am no longer under physical threat, but I am still looking for a home. Thankfully, we do have a place to sleep and keep our stuff, but I await the fulfilment of my people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest that is promised in Isaiah 32:18.
Questions to consider: Are you “still looking for home”? How do you live with “the Lord as [your] dwelling place”?