“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.” Psalm 119:19
I tried to go back in my mind and count how many times we moved and how many houses I lived in during my lifetime, but I gave up. Let’s just say I moved many times before I married Bill, and many more since. I think in college my best friend and I moved every semester trying out a different place. I pretty much live by a rule I initiated that says, “When the highest windows need to be washed it is time to move.” I am aware that I struggle with contentment issues. This is why I find this subject so interesting- a temporary home… I am a ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ kind of person. I get restless, dissatisfied and preoccupied. I want to be in on what’s going on over there but what if I miss what’s going on here? I’m always worried if I commit to this, I’ll miss out on that. My dad would always say to me, “never satisfied, never satisfied.” He couldn’t be more accurate- nothing on this earth satisfies the huge hole we have inside of us. The only thing that finally satisfies is Jesus. I’m putting all my stock in Jesus and eternity with Him. The problem is the world is like a huge vacuum constantly trying to suck us back in and trying to convince us it’s better than Jesus. We have this constant battle warring against us.
A friend I knew, who was building a house, would say with a very heavy country accent three times in a row, “I just hate that temporary living.” “I just hate that temporary living,” “Oh, I just hate that temporary living!” I always agreed, but I very much like the idea of a new house! Weighing all things out — I am moving! The actual moving is the worst, however, it is a necessary evil. Then, just as you’ve recovered from that shake up, it is time to move it all again to a place you hope to stay longer than 6 months.
I remember, clearly, what it is like to actually be a stranger in a foreign land. The first time was when I was 7–years old. Our family took a slow boat to Brazil and it took us two weeks. I don’t know if that was because that was how people traveled overseas in that day, or if it was supposed to be one last bit of American fun before arriving in our new strange land. I had my 7th birthday party on that ship. The captain came down to tell me Happy Birthday and joined us for a piece of cake the chef had baked for me. The trip over was fun, but the living there was very different. Even as a child I felt like such a stranger. I didn’t know what they were all saying but it sounded like they were mad at me all the time.
The second time I moved overseas was when I had just turned 40 and we moved to the South of France. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. I was out of place — very much a stranger. It’s one thing to visit a foreign country but something entirely different to live in one. Everything I knew about functioning as an independent adult went straight out the proverbial window. I felt lost. I longed for home in a way I never even knew was possible. The comfortable, the familiar… I am sympathetic when I cross paths with someone who isn’t from the USA. They are struggling with the language, and I have huge empathy for them. I know how hard that is and how juvenile you feel just trying to say simple things like, “I’d like a diet coke with ice.” “Do you have ice in your country?” “How much does this cost?” “When is the first flight back to America?” You know, the simple things…
“For I am a stranger with you, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 39:12
When we moved to Kentucky 7 years ago, it was important to me to have a home for our two college-aged kids to come home to. We shared the news with our kids one fine winter day that we were moving. We told them God had called us to a new church and we were moving from our beloved church and home in Texas to Kentucky in a month or so. We told them we’d see them in Kentucky at the end of the school year, and sold the house right out from under them. Sounds a bit rougher on them now as I reflect. I don’t think we caused permanent damage to their psyche though. I’m thankful they are very resilient individuals and understand life in ministry is God’s call, not ours. They want for us to follow His call as we do for them. It was a new experience to move without our children though.
For these reasons I was determined to hurry and have a home set up for them when their semester was over so they’d have a home to come to. So, after our kind and long-suffering realtor had shown us hundreds of houses we finally picked one. I didn’t particularly like it, but it seemed better than others so it was where we landed. It seemed like a small issue because our plan was to build a house after a year or two. Rachel named that house “the temp” … that’s what we always called it. By the time May came, Rachel and Lance joined us for the summer. By then, we were somewhat settled into this temporary house. We lived there for 5 years! That wasn’t what I meant when I said Temporary! What I do know is, God’s timing is always best. In His time the door opened and we walked through with one of the greatest guys we know to build us a house — we love it and are so grateful.
A temporary home… Then the question becomes, what are we going to need for just 5 or 6 months? Which books? Which plates? We have to imagine what those 6 months might hold. Will I need wedding clothes at any point? We wonder if it will snow … do we need access to all our snow gear? Are we going on vacation during this time period? Where are the beach towels? Must we put things on the wall and try to feel somewhat settled? Do we hang family photos? Should we get new checks with our new temporary address, or try to struggle through? (I’m hoping no officers of the court in charge of fining drivers license criminals are reading this because one honestly can’t be bothered with changing that DL every time one moves.) I look at it as a suggestion. A ballpark. Something to shoot for. I fail to see the point in getting a new drivers license for 6 months only to change it again later. I know it’s a gamble but I’m playing the odds. I can usually make it 6 months. I think I set a record once in Texas for not updating my license and I won’t be telling you how long I went, as I’m sure there are some lovely legal minds reading this right now. I think my picture now is still from when I was 40. I think I look recognizably similar, — no one has questioned me on it yet. “No seriously, hey, I’m just kidding,” (that should clear me of any responsibility).
Temporary Living… The very word ‘pilgrim’ reminds us of our call to be distinctive and set apart for Christ. We must travel lightly through this journey we call life. The truth is actually every place we lay our head in this world is temporary because our home is in heaven. If we know what it means to be pilgrims for Christ then we understand this and derive our happiness and peace from him alone. So we are actually all in the same boat as believers, whether you’ve lived in the same house your entire life or like me, have moved many times- this is our temporary home.
We have to hold tightly to the Word of God but loosely to this world. We must continually remind ourselves this is our temporary home. In this life — we are just passing through. If we forget this we easily fall into the stronghold and struggle of trying to make this world everything to us, which leads to bitter disappointment. We spend way too much time trying to get all settled comfortably in this world that is just a temporary home. None of the stuff matters, just people matter. If you need more stuff, it is way to easy to get — don’t hold on to the old stuff, move it out. It’s too heavy! We all have way too much stuff. Remember, we are pilgrims not settlers.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” (I Peter 2:11)
The Carrie Underwood song Temporary Home brings a lump to my throat. You can always count on a country song to reach in and pull your heartstrings. I must write the lyrics out, in case you don’t know it. – I just wish I had written these words!
“Little boy, six years old
A little too used to bein’ alone
Another new mom and dad, another school
Another house that’ll never be home
When people ask him how he likes this place
He looks up and says with a smile upon his face
“This is my temporary home
It’s not where I belong
Windows in rooms that I’m passin’ through
This is just a stop, on the way to where I’m going
I’m not afraid because I know this is my
Young mom on her own
She needs a little help got nowhere to go
She’s lookin’ for a job, lookin’ for a way out
‘Cause a half-way house will never be a home
At night she whispers to her baby girl
Someday we’ll find a place here in this world
“This is our temporary home
It’s not where we belong
Windows in rooms that we’re passin’ through
This is just a stop, on the way to where we’re going
I’m not afraid because I know this is our
Old man, hospital bed
The room is filled with people he loves
And he whispers don’t cry for me
I’ll see you all someday
He looks up and says, “I can see God’s face”
“This is my temporary home
It’s not where I belong
Windows in rooms that I’m passim’ through
This was just a stop, on the way to where I’m going
I’m not afraid because I know this was
My temporary home.”
This is our temporary home
Before we knew Christ we were strangers to him. As we gave him our life we traded our citizenship- from earth to heaven. We became joint heirs with Jesus Christ. The word sojourner means, to dwell for a time; to dwell or live in a place as a temporary resident, or as a stranger, not considering the place as his permanent habitation. So if you want to join me and lighten your grip on this temporary world I believe we will live a life of greater peace. I need to be reminded of that often.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” (Ephesians 2:19)
Permanently hanging with Jesus,