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The Importance of Place

All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. Genesis 13:15

The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God. Gen. 17:8

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

The question which is often asked on forms and by people verifying your information is, “What is your address?” What used to be a simple question has now become quite complicated in my mind. Our former address for 9 years is no longer our address, though it’s still on record just about everywhere. Our current abode isn’t really our “new address” because it is so temporary (though we could end up being here for a whole year or more). The address where we are going isn’t exactly where our mail needs to be directed yet, but it would be easier if I could figure out how to make that work now. So, we got a P.O. Box for simplification, but it really adds another whole address.

The unsettling nature of moving has made me think a lot about “place” and the reality that God designed His people for place, particularly His place. The first model of what this place looks like was Eden. It was never the full reality, of course, but a “type and shadow” of good things to come. Adam and Eve did not get to settle in this land of God’s presence because their sin could not abide in God’s holy of holies, so they were sent out. They had to find a new home with the memory of a near perfect home fresh in their hearts. They held on to the hope that God would provide His promised offspring to complete the work that Adam failed to do – to usher in God’s kingdom through His people who would get to settle eternally in His promised land.

Leaving my familiar and predictable former home, there is an urgency to get settled and feel at home quickly in our apartment. Yet, our apartment, much like Israel’s wanderings, isn’t really our permanent home. The displaced feeling provides a nagging reminder that I’m not there yet but it also provides a sweet reminder that I’m not there yet. It reminds me that there is something more, and far better than the place where we started, just as the new heaven and new earth will be exponentially better than the Garden which first imaged that final Land.

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 2 Peter 3:13

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:26-28

The challenge for me is that in the midst of being content in the place God has me now, I am not to cling to nor expect or demand security from these shakable environments. My former address nor my coming address are the fulfillment of God’s dwelling with His people, they at best provide shadowy foretastes.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev. 21:1-4 It is because of this certain reality of the most satisfying, peaceful, joyful, perfect Place that I don’t have to make my current surroundings “perfect”, that the flea infestation we have inherited can serve to remind us that this is a broken image of better things to come, and that I don’t have to wait until I get to our new address to feel settled. I can settle in the knowledge of my glorious final address and worry less about where my mail goes between now and then. (:

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