Today my almost- 13-handsome-spunk, Ethan, headed off to his year 7 orientation. It feels like only yesterday, he was standing outside his prep class eager to start school. I can remember walking him to his class room each day holding his hand…then one dayhe didn’t want me to hold his hand anymore. I can remember the day he didn’t want a hug and kiss form mum anymore and today, he lept out of the car and as he turned and waved I sensed the confidence in his stride reflecting the confidence in his heart. His confidence reflects both his personality and the reality that this transition is not a massive leap. This school has become a place where he feels at home. Not all the kids heading into year 7 next year will feel the same, as they make the transition to a new school. In some ways I think big leaps and massive change teach us that we can adjust and that we will be ok. Some of us have had to face change and life requires us to unsettle in order to resettle.
This year has been a year of unsettling for my heart and yet I took it as a surprise as if it wasn’t what I am called to. I so believe that God is reassuring my heart that the unsettling is simply to set me up for a re-settling. He wants to unsettle me so that He can re-set where my heart and focus should be. I am, like Jacob, called to be a pilgrim not a settler. I don’t have the clarity or confidence that Jacob has and there are some things I have allowed to settle in my heart that need unsettling.
This morning as I sat in Genesis 47, we come to a chapter where Joseph’s father, Jacob, at the age of 130, stands before Pharoah and blesses him. Pharoah asks him his age and what he does. At the age of 130 you would think he would be talking about his retirement plan but instead he articulates a very clear message that speaks to my heart today.
I find myself wondering what it must have felt like for Jacob, an old man, venturing to a new land and settling his clan in a new place and new land. His son has invited him, with the authority of the Pharaoh, to come take up residence in the best part of the land; to make a new life there. After introducing some of his brothers to , Joseph then presents his ageing father to Pharaoh. When Jacob encounters the Pharoah…I note a few things. He is not intimidated, he blesses Pharaoh and he wants to clarify something. It is this something that speaks clarity to my heart today. The something is that he makes a point and even a declaration that the writer of Hebrew picks up on In chapter 11 and reiterates to us as believers…He tells Pharoah his occupation but also adds that he comes from a line of ‘sojourners’. He is making it clear that he does not intend for his clan to become Egyptians or for his clan to remain and settle in this land. He has every intention of not becoming a settler. His plan is that they will return to their life as sojourners. They are not here to stay. They are not settlers. This is not their home. They have no intention of staying in Egypt forever… this is just temporary. Little did Jacob know that it would be 400 years before his people would move out. Nor did he know that he would he would be challenging me to never make Egypt my home.
It is not my intention to settle in Egypt. But neither is it my intention to become a settler: where we make ourselves at home in places that we were never meant to settle. Father, have I set my heart on pilgrimage or have I set my heart on things that were never meant to be home? I am a pilgrim passing through. When I make what is temporary, a permanent residence, I can end up pushing back when God asks me to move. Settler or sojourner? I thought I was good with change but I think I am only good with change when I am in control of it. The longer I live in this house, and in this home and in this suburb, with these people and in this city, and the longer I pastor this church and connect with this community of people in my world, the more settled I become in the things I should be unsettled in and I become resistant being unsettled. …sojourning is meant to be my way to life but instead, I prefer settling down.
I am called to have a heart set on pilgrimage but I feel my heart yearning to take up permanent residence here or maybe even back there. I am not meant to make a place, a season or a context of my life, a dwelling place because He is my dwelling place and my heart is meant to be set on him.
I know that I have set my heart on pilgrimage and that this is not my home, I am just passing through. But unintentionally my heart can become settled and even set into ways.
My heart is not set on pilgrimage as much as it is set on comfort and safety and things remaining as they were rather than me remaining in him. When I ask him to keep me safe, it is actually a prayer to keep me settled. This journey requires me to keep my heart set on him alone. There is no need for courage and faith when I am settled on the land of safe and known and easy. It can be hard to know how to remain and make my abode In him or something that is not tangible and touchable and comfortable. There is a tension between what is my dwelling place and where I am meant to be settled and planted. I may be here for a long time but my heart is not settled here. Oh that my heart would reflect the heart of a sojourner, set on pilgrimage. Both are biblical so I must trust his leading.
My heart is set on being a pilgrim just like Jacob but it is also set on being planted and established …but not established in where I am but whose I am and established in him. Even though Jacob died in Egypt, he asked Joseph not to leave his bones there but to take them back to the land of promise, to the land where he had been asked to settle and sojourn. Egypt can be anything in my life that becomes a home and dwelling that God never intended for me to abide and remain in. When I feel the home-sickness that life has taught me to recognise, it is because my home is not here, it is in him. When I feel unsettled, it’s ok because I am not called to be set and to settle, I am called to be a sojourner, a pilgrim. This is not my home…I am simply on my way to another destination.
With year six graduation behind him and Year 7 just up ahead, I realise that the grade he is in is not Ethan’s destination. He is a pilgrim, just passing through yet he is able to feel right at home as a sojourner and so can I.