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As many of my friends and followers of this blog may be aware, I am contemplating a massive change in my life, a change that will put me “on the road again” to missionary ministry. In my early adulthood, I had the wondrous privilege of being a missionary in Bolivia and Argentina, but since 1988, my life has been lived in the U.S. In the next few weeks, I will come to a final conclusion and decision about my life in the near future… will I continue to live and work in the United States, or move my “tent” to Panama? Where and how is the Spirit of God moving me?
The strangeness of my world is the very real possibility that once again, I will live my life with and in Christ in the context of a Latin American country and culture. In many ways, I have lived in “tents” so long that I don’t have a permanent place of belonging. The nomadic existence I have experienced seemingly all my life has often perplexed me, haunted me, and challenged me. It has left me feeling rootless and homeless.
Jesus too was homeless. He too experienced life with the sense of homelessness, saying in Matthew 8 and Luke 9, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus wanted his followers, and he wants me today, to understand that to follow him means to experience change. Sometimes this means a painful break with the way things have always been. Such a break “can lead to a renewal of the ability to sense the wind of the Spirit, and a renewal of a living and dynamic relationship with our God. . . In the Christian community, the power to change, to make a break with the past, comes from the Holy Spirit. The activity of the Holy Spirit is not the preservation of the status quo, but newness, change, vitality and transformation. This power enables us to be what God wants us to be. Through the Spirit, we see where changes need to be made; through the Spirit we receive the power to make those changes. The call of the gospel is to ‘live the future,’ as painful as it is to let the past go.” (p. 25, The Road Home)
So, my question is, how do I hold my tent down when I’m feeling the strong gale winds of change assail me. How do I cope with the looming, changing direction of my life?
My fearful self, my “I’d rather nothing change too much”-self, my “lack of faith”-self says, “Lord, put down the stakes. Stake down my tent here, Lord, where I am, and let me encounter a new way to serve you right here. I don’t really want to experience more change.” But deep in my heart, I hear the Spirit say, “Away… upward, glide with the wind! I’ll keep you safe on the winds of change, and bring your tent down to a new space to breathe my presence and feel my protection. You will not only remain alive in the midst of change; you will be fulfilled by it.”
“Change is only a moment’s pain between familiarity and familiarity” writes author Sara Covin Juengst. Although the changes that God allows in our lives may be painful, may even be seemingly tragic, the pain does not last. And his loves holds us and keeps us safe during the transitions between “the old securities to which we want to cling and the new freedoms that will become familiar through the gift of grace. The gift of grace enables us (me) to see change as a positive happening, to accept and even cherish it.” (p. 38, The Road Home)
Lord, as I wander
on the road again,
as I am swept up by the
winds of change,
watch over me, You who
blow over me.
Guide me as I pitch
my tent; make clear
the steps I take.
Bring me to my journey’s end
with the stakes of my tent
driven deep into your ever-faithful
heart of love.
(Brief quotations from The Road Home: Images for the Spiritual Journey; Sarah Covin Juengst)