It’s the time of year for Christmas letters, time to re-cap what has transpired month-by-month in our lives. Births and deaths, weddings and vacations, accomplishments and happy memories. Meanwhile we relegate the sad, the bad, and the hopeless to wait in the closet till the Christmas letters are signed and mailed, or till we’ve pressed ‘Send’ in our e-mail window. Everything’s looking good in our house…. (Hmm…but that’s another topic for another day) As for our house, we’re getting ready for two things this year: Christmas, and moving.
I was looking back to see what I said in our Christmas letter last year. I liked it so well I thought I could use it again this year! Just fine tune a few details. Add a year to the new grandbaby’s life. Add a wedding. Add a new job for one of our kids. Put a chick back in our empty nest and voila. Not much has changed. In fact last year at this time I wrote:
So… we are enjoying a quiet winding down of our first year with just the two of us rattling around in this big house. Having gotten past the initial withdrawal ache we are enjoying the chance to rediscover 'us' as we wonder what to do next…Our life goals were evidently too limited; we're only 52 and have run out of ideas! Thirty years ago we started our family and now we're back to square one, alone together again. We sure are glad we still like each other!! We want our lives to be about family still and it sure would be nice to live a little nearer to those precious grandkids…so we're asking the Lord to direct our steps with that in mind.
We’ve been thinking about a move for a long time. The grandkids just keep growing up without us! But the truth is, we’re comfortable here. Beautiful surroundings, minimal cost of living, maximal leisure time, low stress…low crime rate--safe place to raise a family. We have enjoyed eleven years of retreat in this place (and what a spot for a retreat center it could be!) It’s not that we haven’t been willing to move, at least in theory. And little by little we’ve been weaned from our first loves here. My hiking adventures largely died with Louie three years ago. Jim’s sailing ventures ended with the sale of our boat last year. [To conclude that story, she actually sank in the Strait last spring during a race at the hands of her new owner!] Our sailing era is over.
We have found fellowship here and purpose among God’s people, and we have been refreshed, but there is a sense that it is time to move on. But still… we are here, asking God to move us, lead us, show us, what more He has for us. And we wait…
I’ve been mulling over Psalm 32:8’s description of what it means to be directed by God:
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (Ps.32:8 )
What does it mean to wait on God for direction with understanding? Not idle and mute. Not stupid and stubborn. What does it mean to be guided by His eye?
Our recent car crash shook us with the reality that life is indeed short. We are not guaranteed endless years of health and leisure to come and go as we please. Our lives are not our own. We are God’s own possession for His purposes. And we want to be holy people—not just in the sense of ‘what we don’t do’ but in the sense of being all that we are meant to be.
For what has He designed us in this stage of our lives?
I’m a homebody. I love having my own home, my own quiet circles of family and friends, my own little world… I am comfortable here. But I have always viewed life on this earth as transitory. No one stage is guaranteed to last a lifetime. Perhaps this comes from our early married days in missions; we moved constantly, never expecting to put down permanent roots. Despite being a homebody at heart, finding my ‘dream home’ would be a hazard for me. I don’t want my heart to be entangled with a place. I don’t want my security to be based on having found a comfortable routine, a predictable lifestyle or a familiar circle of friends. Where is the living by faith once I’ve found my ‘dream home’? Most of all I don’t want to be ‘as the mule’ who must be coerced to move or he will not. I want to be willing and ready to gladly lay down my love of home and go wherever…
And that’s what I’m pondering these days, as our talks of moving become tasks of getting ready to actually move. We have laid down more roots here than ever before. Literally. Up until this move our fragile sense of permanence has always prevented us from planting trees. Here we have planted scores of trees—dozens and dozens of firs, seedling maples that tower over us already, and fruit trees that are just coming into their fruitful years… I understand the longing for the permanence of home, to watch trees and kids grow through all the seasons of life. But we were never meant to love houses and lands and the comforts of home to such an extent that ‘Follow Me’ precludes leaving these. We were never intended to feel completely comfortable in this world.
So as we sense a move coming up we are sorting and sifting the ‘stuff’ of our lives that has brought us a degree of security but which now weighs us down. And we are asking: Will we need this to fulfill God’s calling on our lives?
I thought this part would be easy—this knowing what to take. When it was about furniture, the choices were more clear. Ages ago we glibly discussed what furnishings we would take if ever we moved. Since we started out here with next to nothing—sleeping bags and toiletries, random pots and dishes, we have few sentimental attachments to furniture. But then we officially moved up with a moving van and there were beds and the antique kitchen table and my heirloom rocker and of course, my desk. And the rest has just grown on us over the years, as ‘stuff’ is wont to grow in a culture that values ‘things’ as the measure and means of happiness. And we have been carried along on this tidal wave of ‘blessings’. Imperceptibly my ‘stuff’ and my comfortable place have become a source of security so that the thought of abandoning it gives me shivers in the night. What if…Jim dies, the economy crashes, we can never own a house again, we hate living in Alberta… What if…
The two songs that brought me peace on the night when my worries got the upper hand were these: “Lord, I need you” and “My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. I DARE NOT trust the sweetest frame (or home, or comfy situation) but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.”
Never mind the modern adage to ‘follow your heart’. Mine is a traitor. It loves its simple comforts and predictabilities. It is bound to set its hopes on things seen and to quiver at possibilities unseen. It loves the illusion that everything’s under control. It isn’t. Not under my control anyway.
Have you listened to your heartbeat lately? (another example of something not under my control!) Not just that physical one that pumps the blood that keeps you in life, but your heart of hearts. It was designed and installed by God, custom-made to reflect its Creator’s desires, true enough. But it’s been sabotaged. In the garden when Eve opted to make her own decisions, to ‘follow her heart’, to get a better understanding of good and evil…on that day the human heart proved itself untrustworthy.
David was known as a man after God’s own heart despite his failings because he truly wanted what God wanted. When his own heart carried him away he always made his way back by confessing he had been wrong and God right:
“But David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” II Sam.24:10
I want a heart like that. Saul’s heart was not so pliable. He cared more for his own glory than God’s. He died for His breach of faith. Not only did He disobey God’s clear command, but he justified himself. In addition, because “He did not seek guidance from the LORD” but sought out a medium instead,
“therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David…” I Chron. 10:13,14 He couldn’t be bothered to do things God’s way. His own heart betrayed him.
I don’t want this. So I am speaking ‘Silence!’ to my quivering heart in this transitional season of our lives, and I am asking that God would plant His desires in my heart. I want His peace and His vision for our futures. I want my heart to be weaned from finding security in things and circumstances and to truly set its hope in God. As He makes His desires to be our desires then we will be holy to our God--
“…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” I Pet.3:4-6
Knowing God’s heart is what I’m after, rather than following my own into disillusionment. I need a refit done on my heart to outfit it with His desires for me. The process is underway. Part of me is willing to go or stay, to cling to or fling my possessions as He dictates, to forsake this home and fearlessly follow into the great unknown… He’s got the blueprint for these holy souls he’s making of us. He can see the unique reflection of His glory we are and will be. He’s got the design and our eyes are on Him for the next steps.
Thanks for sharing our journey by your thoughtful words and prayers.
“…you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes”
I Kings 14:8
And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.
I Kings 15:3
‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.' Acts 13:22
“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” –David, I Chron.17:16
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Prov.3:5,6
“Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” Heb.12:1,2