Homeless but Hopeful

I hate packing. Hate is pretty strong language for such a mundane task, but the sight of jumbled piles and a deconstructed home revives unsettling memories of years of frequent moves and unexpected transitions. More than once I have awakened in the morning, knowing that my family’s belongings needed to be sorted through, packed up, and moved out before the end of the day, but not knowing where our next home would be, let alone where we would sleep that night. I have too often fought off that familiar lump of panic in my throat while paring down our possessions, making an endless series of emotionally laden, partially informed decisions about what we should hold on to and what we can give up.

Packing reminds me that I am essentially homeless. Each time I go through the process of either relinquishing or transporting the sum total of my earthly goods, I live out the reality that there is no place on earth that I can call my own. And each time I empty a place that I had cleaned, decorated, and made into a refuge for my family, I am faced with the bare truth that it was never really my home.

What happened to the blessing of being securely settled in the land, of planting gardens and still being around to enjoy their fruit? Is that sense of settled security not something that I should look for, too?

The more we feel our current homelessness, the more we love our future home.

Displacement and homelessness have always been a reality for God’s people, transition and immigration have always been our lot in life. When God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, He took them through forty years of homelessness, forty years of waking up each morning and wondering if this day they would have to pack and move again, forty years of going to bed each night and wondering where the next day’s food and water would come from. No continuity with their past. No security for their future. No place on earth they could claim as their own, except what God provided.

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble… By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone– until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance– the place, O LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.”
Exodus 15:13-17

But He did provide. Day after day He showered down food. Night after night He kept watch from the pillar of fire in their midst. He took them through harsh conditions and terrifying moments, leading them away from the only known sources of water and civilization and towards the unknown of adverse terrain and hostile people. Sometimes they were overwhelmed with gratitude at His past provision. Sometimes they were overwhelmed with fear at their future uncertainty. But at all times, God was their refuge, their safe place, their home.

“In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. …If you would but listen to me, O Israel! You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god. I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
Psalm 81:7-10

Like the forty days that Jesus endured in the wilderness, these forty years of insecurity and homelessness were a time of training. God was walking his people through a series of carefully crafted trials, designed to disconnect them from their former home, deconstruct their former identity, and detach them from every source of security save Himself. But through that painful weaning process, He was preparing them for a better home than the one they had left.

…They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. … If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Hebrews 11:13-16

Looking back on all they had lost, the price seemed too high: at least in Egypt they had been settled. But looking forward to the home God had promised, they had every reason to persevere, to embrace the pilgrimage on which God was leading them.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Psalm 84:1-2, 4-7, 10

Comfortably settled in my own current dwelling, I find it easy to lose sight of the life-long pilgrimage to which God has called me. But when I raise my eyes beyond my pretty kitchen curtains to gaze on the beauty of His dwelling place, my heart churns with longing for my real home. In seasons of comfort and of distress, He has been my shelter.

Pilgrimage is not easy; frequent moves and unsettling circumstances inevitably feed our fears about whether we will survive the journey. But along the way He turns our struggles into blessing, our tears into sources of fruitfulness and beauty. The more we feel our current homelessness, the more we love our future home.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Psalm 90:1

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5 thoughts on “Homeless but Hopeful”

  1. My heart SO resonates with this…esp now since we are in a temporary home. Pray for Anj, she is really feeling it, and I would love for her to start grasping the truth that her Father is her ever-present, Shelter

  2. Being vulnerable but living in ‘Trust in God’ is holiness. If only our Faith were the size of a mustard seed!!! Well Tiffany, perhaps God knows- that you might settle into ordinary living and be less of a Spiritual woman! Without the peace of a permanent home, you have been driven on to struggle but look how knowing you have become! God’s Graces often come in packages of turmoil.x.

  3. We seem to be constantly reminded that we are merely pilgrims here in our sojourn on earth, wandering about having no certain dwelling place, but looking for that city made without hands, who’s builder and maker is God.
    Moved, either having sold or given away everything I had, and now living in a “tent”: with wheels, a small motorhome. I don’t know if I will ever have another home built on solid ground. It doesn’t seem to matter that much. I have the Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s Him that I trust that will always take care of me.Life just isn’t always comfortable or secure, and I believe God meant it to be that way so that we should not put so much stock in pleasing the flesh.

  4. Tiffany,
    You post couldn’t have come at a better time as it confirms what I was thinking about yesterday: In our first 9 yrs of marriage, we loved in five different rental places. While each one provided us the opportunity to meet some incredible people, I longed for a place to settle. This May marks four years of when we “settled” into our first house- purchased. I have enjoyed decorating our home, planting our first flower garden, grounding our first play set in the back yard, and intentionally being more involved in our neighborhood, yet the feeling of “this is not home” remains! I realize in such a tangible way (partially due to having my mom go Home to Heaven three years ago), that I’ll never fully be settled here, but my heart can be settled on Christ & who He is- the never changing God.
    I Corinthians 15:58
    Thank you SO much for all you shared today! I’ll be passing this one on to many friends. Grateful,

    1. I think that the experience of transience, as painful as it is, is exactly what trains us to find our refuge in God. And having done so, we discover what an infinitely sweeter, more satisfying home He is! Thank you for these beautiful testimonies that what He says in His Word has been proven true in your lives.

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