Have you ever been in the position where you were forced to find a new place to belong whether you wanted to or not? There are many reasons you can find yourself in this place of searching.
The most common one is, you moved…You are no longer where you once were. And that can mean physically, you packed up and moved to a new city, or it can mean spiritually, your spirit has moved on because the Lord has moved in you.
Another reason we find ourselves adrift in life, searching for a new place, is God moved. I’ve sadly seen organizations crumble when the Lord removed His favor and His presence because they were no longer in obedience to His law, or the leadership was corrupted by human sins, or the devil got a foothold through dissension and strife. In these situations you have to decide if you’ve been told to stand and fight, or to flee and retreat.
I’ve also had times in my own life when God simply moved out of the tent he’d had me erect and set up in that place for MY life, while staying there in others lives. Just as the Israelites followed the cloud of the Lord through the wilderness and desert, setting up the tent where he instructed, and dwelling there until He lifted His glory and indicated it was time to move on.
I’ve tried to live my life following Him similarly. And of late, it sure has seemed He moves more often than I’m ready. So much change in so short a time has been my constant companion these past several years.
It was many years before I recognized what was happening and saw it in this way, but in my life, there are, and have been, many tents which the Lord has had me erect, where he dwelt for a time, and then indicated it was time to move on by removing His presence. The first ones I recognized were a tent in my life where I live physically, a tent in my life where I worked, and one where I went to church. As I’ve gotten older, others have appeared; seasons of relationships (these are so hard when they end), seasons of personal growth, seasons of creative pursuit. Once I became a mother, I had new tents pop up for my children, tents I am called to tend until they are of an age to tend them on their own…Where they go to school, what activities they participate in, what creative pursuits we help them foster and grow.
Sometimes I’m excited when I get to move on. Others times though, I’m not ready and it causes me great heartache and anxiety, but it’s always tinged with joy and expectation, because I KNOW when the Lord asks me to move with Him that He has incredible things in store for me and my family, no matter how much it hurts to let go and say goodbye.
And every time He says, “Come, follow me,” and I feel my humanness hesitate, I have to ask myself. Why are you here in this place?
Is it because I’m convicted to remain, or convinced I’m not ready to move on? And when I’ve surrendered and recognized His prompting and said, “Okay, I’m coming,” and I’m looking for that new place to erect that tent, in each place I’ve have to ask myself, do I feel drawn to this place because I’m CONVICTED by the Lord this is where we should be, or CONVINCED this would be comfortable and easy?
Conviction is from the Lord. Convincing is from the world. And oh how difficult it can feel to discern between the two at times.
Do you think every time the Lord moved from the tent in the wilderness all the Israelites were excited to have to pack up and move on again? Perhaps they were if it had been a tough season, but perhaps they weren’t if they had been feeling comfortable. What I do think though, is that there would always be expectation of what might be to come, and that they wanted so desperately to be where the Lord dwelt in their lives that they’d go no matter how they felt about it personally. Following the Lord can be HARD. But it’s always worth it when you get where He’s going.
You erect that new tent and He settles upon it and that warm glow fills what was just an empty void since He’d left that space, and you just know this is right. Peace. Conviction.
I look around at the landscape of my life, and it fills my heart with the most joy when I see all my little tents glowing warmly like beautiful orbs of soft, yellow light, as if a lantern were aglow within because I know without a doubt the presence and blessing of the Lord are upon that place of belonging in my life. I have no idea what it looked like when God’s glory descended upon the tent in the days of Moses; I can only imagine how incredible it must have been, but I have learned to recognized what it looks like in my own life through much trial and error. It’s soft, warm, peaceful, and reassuring.
Sadly though, sometimes when I take spiritual assessment and look around to purvey my life’s landscape, I’ll see a tent that has started to flicker in warning that the time in that season is ending; these are the hardest for me, because I have no idea how long it is going to slowly dim before I’ll be released (or forced kicking and screaming like a toddler in a tantrum) to move on, but I know it’s coming, so I just keep watching it and praying as I begin quietly searching for the next place I’m being called. Yet there is some comfort to be had in getting the chance to prepare my heart before the change occurs.
I say these are the worst, but are they really harder to deal with than tents that stay aglow when I desperately WISH I could move on? Sigh. Tending tents is tough, ya’ll.
Other times there are tents that have suddenly gone dark like a burned out light bulb, and it catches me off guard. I’ll know it’s time to go over to that tent and deconstruct it, taking it down one pole at a time, folding up the fabric carefully and neatly as I pray and search for where it needs to be set up next. Sometimes I get excited and I do it quickly, moving on with glee because I was so ready for that tent to get a new home.
Other times I do it with slow, shaky hands and breaths, tears streaming down my face, because I wasn’t ready, or don’t understand why God has decided that season is over. No matter how I feel about moving that tent, however, I strive to do it with obedience in my heart, because I never want to have a landscape of empty, desolate tents cluttering up my spiritual life and keeping me from having the blessings of the Lord fully poured out upon my life and the life of my family.
Beloved, if you feel you have a tent that’s gone dark in your own spiritual life, take heed. Don’t let it deteriorate and collapse because you were too afraid to move it. Pack it up and get ready. Approach it with expectation of better things yet to come, even if you grieve while making the necessary changes. Know that those things will reshape the landscape of your life in a way only God can, and when His presence fills each of your tents you will prosper spiritually.
I pray you will feel aglow with His indwelling in each area of your life. I pray you see the tents in your life spread out around you, like spokes that surround your heart, and that each one is warmly lit, glowing brightly for all the world to see. I pray you find comfort in being entrusted with each tent, in knowing the Lord has expectations for your life that include change and a willing heart to follow Him. For in change, in moving, in willingly taking up your tents and chasing God through the wilderness that is this human existence, you will find life abundant until the day we cross into that ultimate promised land of Heaven and dwell in the presence of the Lord forever. Don’t let yourself be convinced by comfort, instead be ready to go when you are convicted. No matter the cost. It will be worth it!