“I bought a rug,” I texted to my best friend. There was no preface, no following clarifying statement. Just… “I bought a rug.”
“Wow,” she texted back. “That’s big.”
That rolled up rug that I hauled out of Ikea was more than just a focal piece for a room or a place for my dog to chew his rawhides. (Why – just why…) This was a marker of something I hadn’t done in five years of being on the field. This was settling in.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve resigned. When my first team leader left. When my grandmother died. When my best friend got married. When my other best friend got pregnant. When my mother died. When my father remarried. When days got hard. I spent time searching for jobs in the US. I called my director more than once. I never bought a rug in those years.
I spent about 6 years living in apartments with no artwork, no bookshelves, and no throw pillows. I had a bare minimum of dishes, silverware, and coffee cups. I didn’t even buy furniture. I was not about to invest in this space. This was not home. I did not want this to be home. And outfitting my apartment like a home might indicate to God that I was green-lighting Him keeping me here. And I did not intend to give him any ideas!
The bare styling of my home gave me a certain level of comfort – I could pack up and get out of there with minimal effort when I decided to bail. I did everything short of keeping a packed suitcase. I was terrified to settle in, to allow my heart to grow roots in this new place. I was frustrated every time I accidentally called this place “home.”
So last summer when I arrived back in France after a few months at home, I had a decision to make. My role had changed and I was now to be the lead pastor of our congregation. I knew that in accepting that role, I had no choice but to put down roots. You can’t pastor people without living among them with joy. You can’t open your home and your table if you won’t allow yourself to call it home. You can’t lead people in living with contentment if you refuse to be content.
So I bought a rug. And real furniture. I bought bookshelves and finally hauled all of my books from the US. When I went home for Christmas, I brought my grandmother’s cast iron skillet back with me. I’ve bought artwork and frames and displayed them. I bought a large set of dishes (thanks again, Ikea) and glasses so that when my table is full, my guests feel welcome. It still makes me feel a bit nervous to be so invested here, but when I come home to my apartment, I feel like I am home.
Maybe you’re like me and you’re looking for a way out. Maybe the Father is whispering to you that though you thought this season was to be quite temporary, you are here for longer than you expected. Maybe you have your own version of a rug that you need to feel settled – be it framed artwork, a bed frame, a couch, or matching dishes. Whatever it is that’s keeping your heart from calling your host country ‘home’ – consider taking the leap and allowing yourself to be home. Because what I have learned is – home matters.
And someday, when the time comes to leave, I will pack my things into boxes and bins, I will sell or give away what is left, and I will close the door on my life here. I dread that day in a way I didn’t know was possible. But in the meantime, I am here. And I can’t be here unless I am all ‘here.’ My body, soul, and spirit fully invested in the work the Spirit has for me here.
What are some things about your home that make you feel settled? What are some ‘settling in’ things you have avoided? How can your home help you settle in and grow roots?
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