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