In part 1 of this series on Staying is the New Going I gave background as to how I’m learning to love the places God puts me and in order to do that 3 shifts have to happen in our lives. And what I’ve done through this series is to parallel these 3 principles to the Israelites in exile in Babylon at the time of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah writes in chapter 29, This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce (Jeremiah 29:4-5).
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what do you mean build houses and plant gardens, Jeremiah?? We’re not planning on staying here. No, no, no. You have it all wrong. You see we have first and last month’s rent down on a nice little villa on the Babylon River. Everybody back home in Jerusalem says we’re only gonna be here a couple of years; it just doesn’t’ make sense to put down roots here.
Jeremiah reassures the people God loves that wherever they are to stay a while/settle in and build homes…dig gardens…establish roots in their respective neighborhoods and get to know the people and the city around them.
The first shift that has to take place in our lives if we’re going to learn to love the places God puts us concerns how we live in our homes as our homes shift from hideout to hub.
Our homes can function the same way. Our homes can become places we hide shutting out the worries, the stress, distractions, and people around us. Our homes are supposed to be our happy places, our safe places, the one place in the whole city that’s mine and I don’t have to open the door to anyone if I don’t feel like it.
One of the things I miss most about our previous home in Michigan is our old neighbors. Over the 7 years we lived in our community we became really close to a several families on our street, but we became really good friends with the family next door and every Wednesday night I looked forward to Game Night at their house. Game Night was a weekly tradition for them. They often invited friends and people they knew to play and they invited us to the party. So every Wednesday night after the kids were asleep, Jaclyn and I would take a baby monitor, lock the doors, and walk 30 feet next door and play board games until midnight. Don’t judge. (The doors were locked. The kids were safe.)
I’ve been trying to build something of a relationship with my next-door neighbors since we moved here, but it’s been weird because he works 3rd shift. I don’t. So we rarely see each other, but it turns out that he and his girlfriend love to play games. We’ve talked a few times about our favorite games. We’ve even exchanged games, but you know what’s sad? I the three years we’ve lived next to each other I’ve never had them over in our home to actually play games.
The shift from our home as a hideout to our home is a ministry hub has been a process for us, but a couple months ago my wife did something she felt convicted to do, but had never done before. She started a small group for women and every month 7 women gather around our dining room table to share a simple meal and dive deep with real stories and gospel-centered conversations. Imagine what would happen in our city if next year these 7 women found 6 other women and started If:Table dinners every month in their homes? That’s 49 women. But then the year after that those 49 women found 6 other women. That’s 343 women. Then those 343 women find 6 more women…In 4 years time more than 2,000 women are opening their homes and lives up to serious conversations about Jesus learning what it means to follow Him.
My kids are way better than Jaclyn and I are at this. I think it’s instinctive for them. We have a lot of kids in our neighborhood and on any given day it’s not unusual for them to have 3 or 4 friends running around our house. Honestly it’s a bit of a headache for us as parents because kids are messy, you know? They leave a trail of mess behind wherever they go. They eat our food; they drink whatever’s in the fridge. But you know what? As much as it’s an inconvenience I wouldn’t want it any other way. Jaclyn and I decided years ago that we would much rather have sleepovers (actually we call them wake-overs - no one really sleeps at these things). All things being equal we’d rather have kids at our house for wake-overs and parties. In our home we set the ground rules. We have control. So we decided that we want our home to be the place to be. We want our home to be the party house for our kids and their friends.
A couple months ago Jaclyn was out of town for a conference and I was home for a few days with the kids. Our oldest, Naomi, wanted to have a wake-over with a few friends from school and I foolishly said yes. That Friday afternoon I had to stop by the kids’ school for something and as I was checking in at the office, the school nurse saw me (she lives just a couple blocks from us) and she says, “I hear Naomi’s really excited for her sleepover. I just wanted to let you know one of the girls’ parents asked me if I knew who you were and if your house was safe for these kinds of things, and I told her a little bit about you and that she could absolutely trust you.” Let me ask you: In what ways could your home be a hub in your neighborhood?