My newborn granddaughter loves being swaddled snugly. Wound correctly, a swaddle blanket will cocoon Emma Cate’s newborn form tightly into the familiar shape of the womb, her first home. She knows the feel of that place. She trusts it … she calms … she sleeps.
Birth is a launch from home into a new place. Countless studies have revealed the shocking conditions newborns experience in the first minutes of life: air on their skin and in their lungs, temperature changes, bright lights, strange voices and the sudden flailing of their legs and arms and grasping of hands and feet as they lie unbound, lost and alone outside the only place they know—their first home in the womb.
God, our Parent, launches His children into new places of life just as we nudge ours out of our nests and into schools, activities, jobs, adulthood. Each destination brings jarring adjustments. Every new place kindles a longing for home, for the familiar, for what we know and love and now miss. Until the new place feels like home.
Something is hardwired in every human for home. Even the homeless create homes. We’ve all seen the tent cities erected along freeways and amidst the concrete downtown areas of big cities.
Four decades have passed since Dennis and I first called Little Rock home. My affectionate nickname is The Rock, because it reminds me of my Savior, the Rock. God brought us here as surely as He called Abraham to a land that was not his birthplace.
This place is home.
In many ways, Little Rock is an ordinary city, not known for greatness in any remarkable way, yet the ordinariness of this place has become endearing; we love it here because it is what He has given us. This plot of earth, our state, displays His genius no less than other places on the globe.
This place is our home.
Ordinary is a word that well describes my husband and me and our respective backgrounds. It also is a synonym for the foolish things, the weak and the low that Paul says God chooses to shame the wise and strong and so bring glory to Himself (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
In his book, Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir, author D.J. Waldie writes, “I’ve tried to understand how paying attention to ordinariness—ordinary things, ordinary places, everydayness—is an enriching encounter.” He calls this paying attention to the discovery of “paradise in the ordinary.”
Both noun and verb, the concept of place is so ordinary as to escape our notice in the Scriptures. But the very frequent presence of this word is replete with meaning.
- God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden. It was their home.
- He called Abraham to leave Ur and travel to a place he had never seen to grow a nation. If Abe’s friends had come to visit they would surely have mocked the primitive place and therefore by association the God who called Abraham there.
- The Sent One was placed in a dark messy home within Mary’s womb. Then in another beneath His dignity place called Nazareth. Ultimately, He was placed on a God-forsaken piece of wood. Finally, at peace, He was placed on a cold stone slab in a pitch-black tomb.
- But before He left this place called earth, He told us a truth linked with an amazing promise: “Behold I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”
This place is not our home. Like Jesus we too have dual citizenship.
Every spot on this spinning orb is part of God’s wondrous very good creation. From pole to pole, from desert to lush forest, from sea to shining sea, each place on earth is brimming with wonder and beauty, the artistry of God’s hand, if we take the time to look, to notice.
This place is a gift to us.
Many inhabitants of this earth don’t care for it, treasure it, or treat it as holy. Instead, we declare some places better than others as if God somehow made mistakes. But He is an artist, and every painter knows that color needs both balance and contrast, that light areas shine brightest near dark, and that every mountain appears taller when surrounded by valleys. God is always intentional.
Waldie says, “the sense of place is part of the equipment of a whole person as much as a sense of self. Not having a sense of place is a handicap. Those who don’t have a place-bound loyalty are quite willing to permit all sorts of evils to rise up.”
Jeremiah 29:7 tells us, “Seek the welfare of the city” … the place … “where I have sent you … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” The people didn’t want to be in that place, Babylon, to which they’d been sent by God in exile. They ached for home, for Jerusalem. But God wanted to strip away all that had come between their individual hearts and Him. He knew in this place He could get their attention again.
Jesus lived for 30 years in one place. Then for the next three years He traveled but was often in the region of his family home for long stretches of time. Knowing the smells, the sound of the local dialect, the feel of the familiar footpaths of home was a comfort and security to Him as much as it is to us.
But Jesus also had another Homeplace which He knew even more intimately yet was willing to leave for us. How grateful I am for that choice.
As I sit at my desk writing on my laptop in this place God has given us to live, I see out my window another familiar yet wholly unique glowing sunset over the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains. The color God has washed across the sky is a repeated gift He didn’t have to share for the millionth time. But every time I choose to pay attention I’m thankful for the ordinariness of this hidden place of God’s creation.
To many Little Rock is a no-name place.
To us it is nothing less than the wondrous gift of God.
This place is home as we wait for His timing to take us to our eternal Home!
May we remember His divine placement of our lives for the good of our city, our neighborhood and our own lives. May you be alert to the “paradise of the ordinary” all around you.
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