by Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio.
The older I get, the more I love to spend time at home. About a year and a half ago John and I were able to purchase a little raised ranch that I've dubbed "Bag End" because not only is it built into the side of a hill like a hobbit hole, but it also has become a place of comfort and refuge and (thanks to me) a little bit of clutter. I adore the way it feels to sit on the far end of the couch (John calls it my perch), breathe in the fresh air through open windows, and bask in the simple joy of the sanctuary we have built together. Home is great.
Since becoming a homeowner, the term "dwell" has been something upon which I have tried to meditate. A quick Google search says that to dwell is to "live in or at a specified place", which is straightforward enough. John and I dwell at Bag End. It is our home base, our headquarters, the place from which we have chosen to operate. Our dwelling place is the main hub of where we live our lives.
Dwelling, however, does not only refer to the physical spaces in which we live, but also carries real weight in spirituality as well. I was reminded by a friend this week of the gorgeous beginning of Psalm 91:
"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Ps. 91:1 NIV)
The whole chapter is a favorite, and here the Psalmist moves the idea of dwelling beyond the hearth and into the presence of God. When we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, we find rest as the Lord covers us. His shadow is a safe place where we can take a load off and trust that we are safe. When we pick to live in the specified place that is under the Divine wing, then we are good. Now and forever.
I would like to say that I have made my dwelling place with God as concretely as I have made my dwelling place at Bag End, but a closer inspection would reveal that, while I do try to consistently cozy up to the Lord, I also choose, in my brokenness, to dwell elsewhere. When the world is chaotic, I cling to novels and Netflix like they are an oxygen tank. I like to camp out in the burned out, poisonous pastures of anxiety. I will always be able to find a comfortable spot within the folds of pastry or the density of a brownie. I dwell on and in these things. I make dark homes where foundations were not meant to be laid.
Are novels and Netflix and the occasional baked good bad things? No (in fact, I would say that they are necessary). Do humans sometimes feel anxious? Of course. But I think there is something to be gleaned here about where we choose to dwell as we try to navigate the beauty and the mess of life.
Think back to the last time that you felt like you could use a safe haven or a little bit of genuine rest. Now, think about what your first gut reaction was in regard to where you could obtain that safe haven or genuine rest. Did you picture yourself falling into the arms of the Living God? Or did you, like me, immediately picture a bubble bath and a snack and whatever my chosen method of distraction was that day?
Too often, we don't take God up on His offer to let us have a little campfire under the shelter of His wing. We choose to dwell elsewhere or, worse, dwell on things that suck the life from us rather than on the Giver of Life Himself. We look to every other dwelling place we can think of and foolishly hope that enduring safety will be found therein. And let’s be honest; sometimes the idea of dwelling somewhere where I won't have to think at all is more appealing than being confronted with myself before the throne of God.
But who will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty? Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High.
I want to issue a challenge: topple all dwelling places that sell you a counterfeit version of the gift the Lord holds out to us. Ask yourself: where am I choosing to dwell? You will not find safety on a dinner plate or at the bottom of a bottle or even in the well-loved spine of a library book. You will find rest when you dwell with God. Period.
Now, this does not mean that I can't read a good book while dwelling with the Lord, nor does it mean you should give up whatever brings you little joys in life. We can even invite God in to transform those things so that they become part of our practice of dwelling with Him. If you are drawn to books, read a book about God! If you are drawn to food, share a meal with spiritual community! But I supposed that the point I’m making is this: a hotel room will never be home. It is temporary and might feel nice for a bit, but it does not serve as a substitute for that real place of refuge and comfort.
When you choose where to dwell, root down with Jesus. Dwell on Scripture, dwell on glorifying thoughts, dwell on the amazing love and grace offered to us by our Heavenly Parent. Do not set your mind and heart on anything lesser. Curl up in the shelter of the Most High, find rest in the shadow of the Almighty, and know that you are safe. You are home.
Cross-Posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"