Safely settled in sculpted seats, we wove our way through the labyrinth of freeways that connect the disparate pieces of San Diego. Neighborhoods, shopping malls, schools, even open spaces whizzed by.
As we neared downtown, out our side windows we were surprised to see a community wholly unlike any other we’d passed. A city within the city; colorful tents, creased dirty cardboard panels, a blanket hung from a tree branch, scattered sleeping bags, parked shopping carts brimming with belongings and bulging shopping bags. It was a place of unplanned belonging, scattered around every corner, up and down alleyways for miles.
On we went to our destination, the lingering images made the reality obvious: even the homeless create home.
Four decades have passed since Dennis and I first called Little Rock home. My affectionate nickname, which I use liberally, is The Rock, because it reminds me of my Savior, the Rock which brings forth living water. We can’t sport bumper stickers that read native. But God brought us here as surely as He called Abraham to a land that was not his birthplace.
This place is home.
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 the discovery of “paradise in the ordinary.”
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 loves to choose to shame the wise and strong and so bring glory to Himself, (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
By popular consensus, Little Rock is an ordinary place. For decades now we’ve heard both subtly snide and callously critical comments about God’s chosen place for us to live. Yet its ordinariness has become endearing and we love it here.
This place is our home.
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. 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. We have dual citizenship, as did Jesus.
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.
This place is a gift to us.
Many of us don’t care for it, treasure it, treat it as holy, nor do we stand in awe of every inch. Instead, we declare some places better than others as if God somehow made mistakes. But He is an artist and every painter knows color needs both balance and contrast, light areas shine brightest near dark, and 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.”
We see that too often in this world no one cares enough, so it seems, to stand up and push back the evil, to defend the place God has given knowing it has value beyond what is casually evident.
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 the Rock is a no-name place.
To us it is nothing less than the wondrous gift of God.
This place is home!
Jeremiah 29:7 tells us, “See 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.”
May we remember His divine placement of our lives for the good of our city and our neighborhood and for our own good. Even the ordinary places contain His glory and wonder if we look and pay attention and give thanks.