Onward Christian Hobo

I started 2016 with a prayer penned in my journal “Shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” It’s a beautiful and poetic line from The Message (Psalm 51:7-15). Instead of doing a One Word for the year, I claimed this as my phrase. Looking back, I realize I had absolutely no idea how God would answer the prayer.

My answers would’ve been something along the lines of a more organized way to meal plan, a stream-lined method for helping the boys with their homework, or a more efficient way to grocery shop. But God always looks beyond the apparent and goes for the heart of the issue.

God’s answer to creating something new in my life amidst perceived chaos was to give me more chaos. So much so, I became overwhelmed with situation after situation—pushed to the edge of myself until I finally had to surrender my kingdom and let Him come in and disassemble everything.

Like my boys and their Lego creations, when I let them leave the stuff out for a few weeks, they don’t want to go in their room and play because there’s no space among the cluttered, dusty, built-then-forgotten, yet carefully guarded scenes. Sometimes they voluntarily take their creations apart and start over, but often it’s up to me—an outside force—to give them a fresh start. This makes room for new creation.

The chaos of 2016 continued all the way into December as we sold our belongings we’d painstakingly collected over the years in China, packed our bags to move to Texas for a sabbatical. It may look like madness on the outside, but God’s fingerprints are all over it. We’re due for a break and we’re welcoming it with open arms, but it’s still painful to leave the place we’ve called home for so long.

Through the gift of chaos, God is creating room in my heart and life for something new, so I’m not quite ready to move away from this phase. I’m still expecting him to bring about something good from the nothingness which is my lack of plan or next solid career move. Maybe if there’s nothing there for Him to work with, I can be sure the next thing that comes along is created by Him and not by me.

As for 2017, I don’t dare presume to know how He’ll answer, but I’m compelled to pray. I’m carefully contemplating yet hesitant to claim a new word, but maybe it’s Sanctuary. As we go forward to the next chapter of our lives, I’m reminded that even as I disassembled our apartment, the once organized pieces of my life heaped up into piles of messiness all around me, I remember God is my sanctuary, a place to run for refuge.

As we walked out of our apartment for the last time as a family, carrying our overnight bags and trekking through the December snow-sludge to a hotel for our final night in China, I flippantly remarked, “I feel like a hobo!”

“What’s a hobo?” my son asked.

“Uh . . . it’s a person who carries everything they own with them because they don’t have a home . . . and let’s not say hobo. It’s not a nice word.”

Later in the evening I remembered what I had forgotten in the heat of the moment. God is my home.

Thankfully, it came up again the next day on the way to the airport as one of the boys remarked, “Hey! We don’t have a home!”

I had the presence of mind this time to remind us all we do indeed have a home. Not a “one day we’ll be home in heaven” sort of deal, but a “right now, I’m technically homeless but I know the only place I can truly take refuge in this world is in God’s presence” kind of thing. And that reality settles deeper into my heart than it ever has before as I’m between two places I once called home.

With all of this in mind, here’s my reflective prayer looking back on 2016 and my longing for 2017:

“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!” (Psalm 51: 7-15, The Message Translation)

“I’ll leave a core of people among you who are poor in spirit—what’s left of Israel that’s really Israel. They’ll make their home in God. This core holy people will not do wrong. They won’t lie, won’t use words to flatter or seduce. Content with who they are and where they are, unanxious, they’ll live at peace.” (Zephaniah 3:9-13, The Message Translation)

Have you endured a season of chaos which brought forth a new season?

Have you deeply embraced the truth that your home is in God? How has this changed your situation or perspective?

 

 

13 Comments

  1. Elizabeth January 3, 2017

    LOVE this, M’Lynn, as usual!

    My interpretation of my word (or cry for help, as it were) is generally different than God’s interpretation of said word. That is exactly the story of my past year too. Same story, different word. And at the end of the year, God is still good. Very good. Better, in fact, than I thought before. Even if I’m still such a mess.

    Your other point — that we are never homeless, that God is our home — you’re speaking my language here. It’s a truth I cling to on a regular basis. It grounds me and strengthens me and supports me. Thank God for God!

    Fun fact: as a military kid, one of the places we were stationed at had an annual “Hobo Day Parade.” No lie.

    Also. Was just reading in Peter Enns’s book for parents, “Telling God’s Story,” about how the creation story is about God making order out of chaos, in a very different way than the ancient gods of idolatry did their creating (which was usually creation out of violence). I couldn’t help but think of that as you talked about your Psalms-based prayer. One of the things Enns discusses is that the Flood was a reverse creation — destroying it all to start over again. The outside force giving a fresh start.

    So anyway, I guess many things in my life converged in your post today. 🙂

    May you have a very blessed and restful sabbatical year. At the end of it — and in the middle — may you find God even better than when you started.

    1. M'Lynn January 11, 2017

      Elizabeth, It’s so good to hear from you and see how our thought paths crossed through this post! I especially like the idea of a “Hobo Day Parade.” I’d love to see a photo of that!

      1. Elizabeth January 11, 2017

        Ooh good idea, I’ll ask my mom for one!

      2. Elizabeth February 20, 2017

        Here’s a pic from one of the parade days.

      3. Elizabeth February 20, 2017

        And my middle sister in her Hobo Day costume, circa 1988.

        1. M'Lynn February 28, 2017

          These are adorable and heart-warming and I get it. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jenilee January 4, 2017

    I truly love the toy/lego analogy. SO very true and so much how God works in our lives. I love when things I do as a mother reveal to me something about how God sees me, works in me and loves me. Thanks for sharing that moment… and the verses are beautiful as well.

    1. M'Lynn January 11, 2017

      I’m also thankful He can see the bigger picture when all I see is the mess!

  3. Katie Coons January 4, 2017

    May you be blessed in this hobo season. We left China a little over a year ago and are still finding home, even though we are settled with a job, I’m grateful that I still remain a pilgrim looking for my real home. Onward hobo!

    1. M'Lynn January 11, 2017

      “Still finding home” I hear ya! Once again, I’m so glad my true home is with God and I don’t have to feel as lost as it sounds to say “I’m still finding home.” After this past move, I do hope that even at some point in the future when we are settled into our home, I still have a pause about that word.

  4. Candace January 5, 2017

    Thank you, M’Lynn! What a beautiful and insightful post. I love your writing style and your authenticity. Our family made a big move two years ago, and it has been a huge step of faith for us – with lots of unlikely provision but lots of painful aspects, too. I love your message about being at home in God’s presence no matter where we find ourselves. Peace and strength to you as you navigate this new season.

    1. M'Lynn January 11, 2017

      Candace, thanks for your comment. I think this post will be one I need to read weekly during this transition! I’m always happy to hear about provision in the midst to a huge step of faith. I hope your transition continues to go well (even though it’s been painful). I know it’s been two years, but it seems these things can drag on…

  5. Shepswife March 14, 2017

    Satan has been whispering in my ear the past few months, “homeless.” I’m preparing for a furlough I don’t want to take, because I have no “home” left there to return to. But in our country of service, we have left our neighborhood of the past seven years and only home my kids have known for a new neighborhood. So that doesn’t feel like home either. And the word “homeless” has been beating me over the head. Praise God, He has been whispering “I AM your home” over and over in response. But while I understand the words, I get the feeling that I still don’t grasp the significance of it. Thank you for bringing it to mind again. Wherever He is, I’m home.

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