Still our Home

She was lonely, mistreated, and scared.

Running from her community, her family, and her home, the anguish and pain left by the decisions of others most likely made her wonder about her identity, significance, value, and worth. In the blink of an eye, as is often the case, her world was turned upside down, and the ones who were supposed to take care of her didn’t seem to care at all.

Heartbroken and homeless, this beauty fled into the wilderness, forgotten by all but One.

Her lying, lustful, and passive caretaker had impregnated this precious girl and left her to fend for herself. Her caretaker’s wife, in a jealous fit of rage, demanded that she be removed from the household. Her caretaker didn’t intervene to halt the ensuing madness, so she did the one thing that all of us tend to do at one time or another: She ran away from home into the enslaving embrace of anxiety, fear, loneliness, and shame.

I think I can safely say - we can all relate to aspects of this girl’s story. Probably not every detail, but its essence, I believe, will resonate with every single one of us.

Things have been done to us, and we have done things to others that have led us to run far from home into the wilderness of heartache.

Maybe we’ve never literally run away, but emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally … We know all too well those people and places that we have actively sought to escape and those people and places we have actively sought as our refuge and shelter. This precious girl’s story is our story, too, if we pause to imagine even for a moment.

I ran away from home once. To be more accurate, I biked away from home. It was short-lived, but it nearly gave my parents a heart-attack. I was young and restless. Out of concern and love, my parents had denied my grubby little paws access to a violent video game. In retaliation, I packed a brown paper bag filled with a few dollar bills and rode fast and hard down the dirt road that led from my family’s home into the heart of our little village named Armada. Not knowing what to do or where to go from there, I called my folks from the local grocery store and asked them to pick me up. They came for me, they saw me, and with a fierce forgiveness & a ferocious embrace, they brought me home.

I have run away from Home many, many times since then and Home always seems to come looking for me to wrap me up in a fierce forgiveness & a ferocious embrace. I have fled into the shadowlands of failure & fear, sin & shame, anxiety & angst, loneliness & languish infinitely more than 490 times. I know firsthand what it’s like to be shrouded and surrounded in anything and everything I could ever possibly need, only to cast it all aside in the wild country. I have auditioned for and played the part of the wanderer countless times - but every. single. time. - this Home of wanderers comes to wrap me up in a fierce forgiveness & a ferocious embrace. He’s known by many names, but one stands out among the rest in our current context, especially as we turn our attention again to our damsel in distress, the cast-aside girl who wound up in the wilderness.

The One Who Sees came to bring her Home.

Wrapped in the disguise of an angel, The One Who Sees asked our heartbroken heroine two heartfelt questions, questions that He gently and tenderly asks us as we wander through our own wilderness:

Where have you come from?

Where are you going?

I believe with all my heart that The One Who Sees knew very well where His beloved wanderer had fled from and where she was headed. He knew, but He wanted her to know that He knows. He saw, but He wanted her to see that He sees. He heard, but He wanted her to hear that He hears. He felt for her, but He wanted her to feel that He feels. For her benefit. For her freedom. For her healing. For her sake. He fled the comforts of His own Home to look for her, find her, pursue her, and wrap her up in a fierce forgiveness & a ferocious embrace.

The One Who Sees came to bring her Home.

The One Who Sees came to be her Home.

You might know Him by a different name, but The One Who Sees, sees you, too. He sees you in your anxiety and offers acceptance. He sees you in your fear and offers friendship. He sees you in your loneliness and offers loyalty. He sees you in your shame and offers shelter. To the ones still seeking, still wandering, still restless, still homeless, He cries out, “I am still seeking, still pursuing, still loving, still relentlessly & recklessly chasing you with a fierce forgiveness & ferocious embrace! I am still your Home. I have always been your Home. I will always be your Home.”

The One Who Sees comes to bring you Home.

The One Who Sees comes to be your Home.

In this Home, we rest our weary hearts, and are still.

~ For more details of our heroine and her Hero, I invite you to read Genesis 16 & John 1.

~ After you read, I invite you to listen to Kari Jobe’s song, “Here.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TeIHxQdjys

Home

As I reflect upon this four-letter word, so many emotions and experiences flood my soul. I love the word and the fond memories it brings: good conversation in the living room as we sipped cups of coffee; movie nights in the family room that made us split our guts with laughter; epic basketball and football games with my Pops and brothers in the backyard; delicious feasts with relatives during the holidays; long bike rides to see the Llamas or to pick apples at the Orchard; little talks around the fire pit while gazing at the lights dancing in the night sky. I could go on and on sharing memories. Home is so much more than a place; it’s the people that make it what it is.

But those memories seem so distant now.

I have lived away from home for almost a decade. College took me miles away from the rural countryside of Armada, Michigan, the small village where my parents decided to raise my five brothers and me. Then camp. Then grad school. Then three internships in three different states. Since moving away from the Spaulding Shire (it’s a family thing), it feels like I have moved almost a dozen times.

The place where I currently live happens to be one of the most populated cities in the nation: Phoenix, Arizona. In the words of Tolkien’s beloved character, Samwise Gamgee: “This is the furthest from home I’ve ever been.” [Unless you count those two trips to India back in college]. The point is, I am far from home. And I have been feeling it lately. Explicitly. Viscerally. Tangibly. Don’t get me wrong; I am learning to love my new home. Phoenix is a unique beauty. I belong to a loving and supportive community. I am making new friends. People have been embracing me, reaching out to me, and I, them. But I’m also experiencing the ache of homelessness, that is, the loss of once having loved ones by my side, near me, in the rooms next to mine. This is reality. And it often hurts like hell. But I know I am not alone.

We live in a world filled with sojourners. People passing from one nation to the next, from city to city, for one reason or another. People wandering in and out of our lives, making positive and negative impacts. People walking by us on our way to school and work, as we visit malls and markets, bars and bookstores, coffeeshops and college dorms, gas stations, movie theaters, and everywhere in-between. Whether we actually see one another is a different story; but we are fellow sojourners nonetheless, breathing the same air, bleeding the same blood, fighting the same battles, enjoying the same necessities and pleasures.

I have been called to love and serve these fellow sojourners. Not all of them, mind you. But a few. I have been here in the Valley for just over a year, and my assignment remains the same: I am to invite these fellow sojourners into the embrace of the One who accepts, loves, and welcomes all of us with an open heart and open hands. I am to remind these fellow sojourners that they are loved with an eternal and everlasting love. I am to call these fellow sojourners to the only place of safety and security where we truly belong and find rest. My purpose is to introduce people to the Home of sojourners, wanderers, misfits, outcasts, and rebels.

His Name is Jesus.

Abide. Love. Reveal.

This is why I am here in Phoenix.

To abide in Jesus while listening to His words and leaning into His ways, wonders, and work. To live in His love and to love others as He loves. To reflect and reveal His relational heart in the ways I relate with others. And to invite others into His rhythms, His lifestyle, His community, His family, His home (see John 13-17). How much of a part I play in this calling, drawing, inviting, and introducing, I honestly do not know. It has been a wild year, with breathtaking highs and excruciating lows. But I am here. Much, much, MUCH more importantly, He is here. I am not the way. He is the Way. I am not the truth. He is the Truth. I am not the life. He is the Life. And my way, my truth, my life - is to point others to HIM, crying out, “Look at the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” No, I’m not John the Baptizer, either. I might smell like him most days, but my name’s not John. My name is Nathan. I’m here to tell people that God gives good gifts and is gracious with the broken and the sinner. I am simply a fellow sojourner showing other sojourners where to find bread, water, and wine that never runs out. I’m a redeemed ragamuffin, recklessly loved by Jesus. And I’m here to tell you that He loves you, too. I don’t know much, but I know the Word. Better yet, He knows me. And He knows you, too. He loves you. He sees you. He wants you. Whether you know it or not, He is your Home. More about HIM to come …

“And the Word became human and made His Home among us …” - John 1:14