Chu-cha-la-la-land! – the name my four-year old son gave everything and everyone as we arrived at the guest house (aka worn hotel that would be our temporary home until quarters were available) on Bolling Air Force Base some twenty-one years ago. He insisted that we had arrived at “Chu-cha-la-la-land,” and started calling our family members by the same name. It lasted about a week. First giggles then exasperation as his determined mind was convinced. He found and named his place to “belong,” albeit fantasy land, but he knew it, and he was sticking to it. (This was the same year he told his preschool teachers that his name was Sailor Moon – we had some issues!)
A place. Every one temporary. We made houses quickly into home, finding spots for every piece of furniture and each family treasure carted from place to place. The life of a transient Army family.
The places my family lived over twenty-five years hold differences and similarities somewhat like a theme and variations. One simple tune – a place – with different dynamics as family grew and challenges changed, tempos based on job and location, styles according to physical layout, spiritual needs, and parenting three growing children. Mozart’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” also known as “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman,” the French folk song familiar to children across the ages, is a listening picture.
The flash of memories from each place flow as fast as the twelve minutes of a varied melody. Flashbacks through which my heart always yearned for more than solid hooks to hang our hats on. Like diamonds in the sky, the sparkling stars of hope shining light in each place we settled were places that didn’t change – no matter where moving trucks unloaded our belongings.
- Places with God
- Places with people
- Places for worship
- Places for solitude
Ready (and listening) or not, from the beginning, God’s Word has been our place. In the Genesis 1 beginning, to John 1, through to Revelation celebration, the Word was spoken, is spoken, and will be spoken over every heart, soul, and mind. Every seeker, listener, hearer, learner – sojourner, alien, foreigner. Aren’t we all? We long not only for the words of the Word but the holy Presence of the Word, being with God, belonging to God, waiting on, and watching for God’s touch, trusting His fingerprints in the nighttime skies of our minds, during the times when we can’t see the stars – and lonely, frightened cries replace wonder.
Place with God is surrounded by the covenant promise of scattered stars as far as the eye can see, is spread with answers to sunrise and sunset prayers, mercies new in the morning, compassion and singing over our heads when we sleep, trusting in the daylight. His light for every path.
Place with people, real belonging with others, spans and closes gaps that are uncontrollable. When heart relationships happen, circumstances, and distances – however far away – cannot alter the permanent places those people hold in our hearts, minds, and souls. God’s greatest commandment is to love Him with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Carrying the memory bank of beloveds within our minds, the treasure of people’s permanent impact remains. Imprints that shine through moving long distances and that stay impressed when loved ones pass away. Being with each other matters. God is relationship, not unto Himself alone but the mysterious and yet tangible Three – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – who love us so well, who teach us to be loved and to love well.
In his book, “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands,” Paul David Tripp talks about the church as a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, and sanctification center, where flawed people place their trust in Christ, gather to know and love Him better, and learn to love others as He has designed. The church is messy and inefficient, but it is God’s wonderful mess – the place where he radically transforms hearts and lives.” We place our trust in God and He gives us places for radical transformation. People find their place in other like-minded, like-hearted, like-souled people.
Place for worship starts in heart recesses. Refreshment during the marathon. Long drinks of Living Water like the woman at the well with Jesus, with Him knowing our need for spiritual hydration long before we realize our thirst. Worship is the music of our souls, the saturation of our spirits, being restored by His Psalm 40 “new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. (And by hearing), Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” Songs that echo into dark nights and resonate through endlessly long days, that “set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”
Place for solitude comes from Jesus, always His humble head and heart bowed before stepping out to love and lead. As He prayed from a perfect heart-perspective, how much more does my sin-filled messiness desperately need 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing” solitude for soul-wellness. Solitude isn’t loneliness; it’s alone-ness with God. Purposeful place alone with God to adore His Trinity wonder, to thank Him for His immeasurable and incomprehensible God-head glory, to confess my sinful brokenness and ask for always extended forgiveness, to seek Him for answers, trusting the “yes, no, and waits” that turn my heart constantly back to extended solitude.
Place matters. God fearfully and wonderfully made us for a place, knit together with every fiber longing for where we belong. His places along the way give every one of us a different experience, a different approach, a different perspective, but our feet are pointed with purpose to the same place, one day face to face with the God who placed every star above and formed every sense of our spirits.
What a sound it will be when His loud voice from the throne says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…Behold I am making all things new…Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” God is making and preparing for us the Revelation 21:3-5 dwelling place. To be forever, never longing again for a place.
Until then, we have strength in God’s Word of scattered stars, solace in His placed people, watered melodies of sure footing in worship, and soul-wellness in solitude. Places we belong.
Psalm 138:8 “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands.”