Leaving home is hard. Finding home is harder.
We live in southeast Orlando, in one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the country. Few of us are “from” here. It’s a transient community. Many of us never anticipated living in Florida, of all places. It feels like somewhere between where we were and where we plan to go, not home. We all face the challenge of how to carve out new life here in this place to which God has called us.
Like I said, it’s hard to find home. Sometimes, it’s because we’re looking elsewhere.
Maybe we can’t settle where we are because we are looking back on the life we had. We miss the community we left, our favorite coffee shop, our old job, or the life we had before kids.
Or we peer ahead to what is coming-the season when kids won’t be in diapers, or we’ll get that better job, when school will be over, or we’re finally married. It’s hard to dig in right where we are and live it fully.
But if we dwell on the past, we won’t see what God is doing in the here and now. If we focus on the future, we miss the blessings of today.We will not find home until we plan to stay.
In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God told the exiled Israelites, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters . . . Increase in number there; do not decrease.”
Strange words to give to people wholly displaced. The Israelites did not want to stay there. They wanted another, different life.
The fact is, this world is not our true home and never will be. We are on a journey from where we were when God found us to where He will take us in the end. Where we are now is exactly where He wants us to be. So how do we make it home?
Invest where you are
God told the Israelites to build homes and settle down. Life is different when you own something. You put in time, money, and energy to make it a place you want to stay. Finding home means living like we aren’t renters but owners of this life, however long the season might be. We give fully of ourselves to the people and places in this season God’s given us, believing that it is worth this time.
Investing is hard, because it means we pour pieces of our hearts into this season that we might not get back when we leave. Our last year overseas, when we knew we were nearing the end, a new family moved to the neighborhood. We instantly connected with them, but hesitated to invest because we knew it would mean a painful goodbye. In the end, we decided it was worth the investment, and we walked away with life long friends.
So stay at that church, even if it’s not perfect. Get to know your neighbors. Drive the back streets of your new city until you navigate it by heart. Grab lunch with those new co-workers. Paint the walls. Hang pictures. Plan to stay.
Be patient with the process
God also told the Israelites to “plant gardens and eat what they produce.” You don’t plant a garden unless you’re willing to wait around for a harvest. Gardens take time, so as we make those new investments in relationships and situations, we patiently wait for new life.
Oh, it’s hard. But when we believe God is good to us, we plant with faith that good will grow. New life won’t happen overnight, but it will come. So we hope. And in the hoping, we hold loosely to the way we believe He will provide. If we are too focused on how we think He will meet our needs, we are bound to miss what He is actually doing.
Life will be different than the last season. What we plant here will not produce the same crop we had before, because this is a new place. But this is what we need right now. What grows is what God intends to use to sustain us.
Enjoy the moment
God also told the Israelites to “marry and have children.” Talk about planning to stay. God wanted them to savor the season. We stop looking back or looking forward and just rejoice in what is here and now. He wants us to soak in with gratitude all that He is giving us. The more we look, the more we see.
These verses challenge me to consider my attitude toward this place I thought I would never be. Have I been pouring myself into life here like I’m never going to leave? Do I believe this is right where God wants me to be, and that He will do good to me? They call me to love deeply, hope wildly, and celebrate fully this life. Wherever you are, embrace the season. God has good in store for you.
“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” -Jim Elliot