When I was growing up in a small town in Georgia, I couldn't wait to pack up a cute little car with all my belongings and drive away one day. I just knew I was destined for bigger and better things.
Of course, today I travel almost 2,000 miles as often as I can to get back to that "little" town where roots run deep and grass grows green and trees stand tall. And when I fly through wide, blue skies and back into the arid Arizona desert I sometimes wonder, "What am I doing here?"
Others wonder what they're doing here, too. I live in a military community. So at least monthly I meet women who are new to the area.
Many of these women move to this isolated, high desert city graciously, if not enthusiastically. They have learned to "bloom where planted." They invest. They put down roots, even if only for a little while. They wander around and explore and appreciate and grow to love.
But others move here less willingly...and they leave a little too enthusiastically, as though they're getting out of jail...at last. And perhaps, while they are here--30 miles off I-10, over an hour from a major city, on the Mexico border, out in the middle of the desert--they truly feel like they are in a prison, abandoned, exiled even.
I felt that way when I first moved here, in fact. But I've learned that's no way to live.
When you resist putting down roots, even in the hard, sandy ground of your desert, you may think you're protecting yourself. But in fact you're only leaving yourself susceptible to the harsh elements of discouragement, bitterness, and loneliness.
I've been talking about resisting the reality of physically living in a place you don't appreciate--a place that is different from what you're accustomed to, a place that feels far from home, a place that feels removed from those you love. Maybe you've experienced that discomfort of buying or renting a home and trying to "nest" in such a place.
But at some point we all find ourselves dwelling in a "place" we don't particularly care for, even if it's not a physical address.
We are moved into situations and relationships and conflicts and dilemmas we never meant to visit, much less dwell in. Sometimes God picks us up from our comfort zone and moves us into unknown territory. Sometimes, indeed, He sends us into exile, so to speak, in order to remove us from something harmful or idolatrous. And sometimes He takes us on an amazing and incredible adventure, but, hey, we never signed up for it.
And that's when we wonder, "What am I doing here?"
Maybe we try to suck it up and deal with it. Maybe we pout and whine. Maybe we take our frustrations out on everyone around us, making it very clear to them that we somehow ended up at the wrong destination and as soon as we can get this thing figured out we'll be out of here, thank you very much.
Maybe we should just ask God, "What am I doing here?"
Because when you do...here's what He'll say:
I know what I’m doing.
I have it all planned out—
plans to take care of you,
not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.
(Jeremiah 29:11, The Message)
But you already knew that, right? That's a familiar passage and indeed it reminds us that God has a plan and it's a good one. We can trust Him.
But meanwhile, what am I "doing" in this place?
Here's the answer to that question, found just a few verses before Jeremiah 29:11 in verses 5-7:
Build houses and make yourselves at home.
Put in gardens and eat
what grows in that country.
Marry and have children.
Encourage your children to marry and
have children so that you’ll thrive in
that country and not waste away.
Make yourselves at home there
and work for the country’s welfare.
Pray for Babylon’s well-being.
If things go well for Babylon,
things will go well for you.
(Jeremiah 29:5-7, The Message)
Look, I've positioned my furniture and parked my car in places I didn't particularly like. I've also dwelt in life situations I would have preferred to flee if I could. In both I've found that God has me there for a reason.
- I've lived in the uncertainty of a loved one's medical problems.
- I've lived in a place wreaking of the lingering odor of rejection.
- I've lived in loneliness.
- I've lived in a difficult work situation with an unreasonable supervisor.
- I've lived in the scratchy, uncomfortable home of a holy, but unanswered, restlessness.
- I've lived in the weariness and uncertainty and monotony of raising preschoolers when I just knew there was somewhere else I was meant to be.
- I've lived in the emotional ups and downs of raising teenagers.
- And I've lived in that middle place between hopes fueled with a little success and hopes dashed by yet another setback.
Where have you lived? Better yet, where are you living now?
Well, live there then. Until God moves you, live there. Plant yourself, invest, engage.
And while you're there, ask God to do a complete and good and heavenly work.
And, yeah, your motive will probably be that you want Him to hurry up and work it out already and work it in already so that you can leave! Right?
But in the end, you may just find that you've been in a good place all along. Or at least you've developed such an appreciation for what God did in your life while you were there that you no longer hate that place...you're just ready to graciously move on to the next place...with Him. And who knows where that may be, right?
Seriously, where are you "living" right now? And what does God have you doing there? We'd love to know.
Labels: disappointment, God's Answers, hardships, personal struggles