In the past 16 years, we've moved at least seven times. Each time, it involved a complete uprooting, leaving behind a house we had made our own, friends, family, church, and social acquaintances. It's sometimes been difficult for us, and even harder for the kids. In the last two years alone, they have been in four different schools, always the new kid in the room, always having to make new friends.
When asked, "Where is your home?" we've had to think about it, because we no longer know many people even though we've moved back to what we think of as our hometown.
Not all moves have been easy, and sometimes we realize we have been in mourning for the last place in which we lived. But as we've learned to depend more on God for our well-being, things have increasingly become easier. Let me explain.
Many monotheists believe that God is present everywhere. There can't be a place without God's presence any more than there could be a place where mathematics operates without a four, say, or where all the wavelengths that make up what we call "blue" are impossible.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper and the woman who discovered Christian Science, wrote to a congregation in Scranton, PA: "God is universal; confined to no spot, defined by no dogma, appropriated by no sect. Not more to one than to all, is God demonstrable as divine Life, Truth, and Love; and His people are they that reflect Him - that reflect Love" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 150). In the same letter, she continued, "God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man's only real relative on earth and in heaven."
In this vision of the everywhereness of God, we can't be without our "real relative," and thus without our home. Circumstances may vary; we might have loved cross-country skiing out of our front door in Illinois and can't do it now in Virginia, but God's goodness still shines on us where we are right now. Even though we have to open our eyes sometimes to recognize that there is a local expression of that goodness, it is there.
For about three years we lived in southern Africa. Our workmates were congenial, the recreation was fantastic, and our jobs were great. The weather could not have been better, and life, we thought, was good. Then I was transferred to another African country, where we thought for almost a year that we were being punished.
The workplace seemed poisoned with backbiting factions; there was almost nothing to do in our free time; and the poverty all around us seemed overwhelming. We didn't like the local culture, and were hating the whole scene. We realized later that we were blaming that country because it wasn't southern Africa.
Then my dad came for a visit. He would spend hours reading the Bible and praying. When we would go on a routine errand, instead of people begging, he would see beautiful faces expressing God's grace. Instead of hovels and squalor, he would notice the flowers someone had put in the window. He never had trouble with the altitude (nearly 9,000 feet above sea level) and instead exclaimed over the pure mountain air, lightly scented with aromas of exotic flowers and spices.
By constantly turning our thought to beautiful things, which he said were expressions of God, he healed our dislike of the country. Even the workplace became more collegial, and we became more productive. Years later we worked again in that country, and we had one of the best experiences of our lives, including finding and adopting two precious children who had been orphaned.
What changed us? Seeing God's goodness wherever we are. We learned not to judge our new place by what we loved in the old. Instead, we allowed God to show us more of the beauties of His infinite creation, and we have found friendships, work satisfaction, and outright joy everywhere. Because God is "confined to no spot," we have found that God's goodness isn't either, and we can make our home and find our happiness anywhere.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell
in the house of the Lord for ever.