God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life. (Psalm 23, The Message)
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Like many veterans of World War II, my father didn't speak extensively about his time in the service. He served in post-victory Tokyo in an administrative role, and I'd reckon that is why we do at least have some stories of his time there, unlike so many other families with fathers who saw hard combat and wished to forget about it. Still, there are some stories that I can recall these many years later.
One story in particular sticks with me, especially since I am writing this post around Christmas time. Dad told of the barracks full of young soldiers, so many barely out of high school, lying on their respective bunks and sobbing into their pillows as the radio played "I'll Be Home For Christmas." It can be an emotional song for anyone, but for young men stuck thousands of miles from home, it is especially so.
But even when we are far from our homes and long to be back with loved ones, we must remember there is a far better, more permanent home waiting for us. The 23rd Psalm, along with so many other passages (like John 14) tells us we are to look for something else at the end of this life ... something that will endure beyond our wildest imagination.
Just over a week ago, our church family lost a dear saint. Hazel (a.k.a. A.D.) was 95 years old. She had lived a full and obedient life to her Savior. And, while her passing was still unexpected and the news came as somewhat of a shock, I couldn't help but think that she had reached what she longed for. And, to top that off, she was home for Christmas! Oh, the sheer joy of an Advent season experienced in direct worship of the One for Whom we lit the candles in the first place. Home for Christmas ... for the very first time, never to experience the aches and pains of this temporary place again.
There is a certain exquisite joy in the way David writes the end of Psalm 23. Of all the sermons and illustrations I've heard given on it, one stands out in particular, especially given the promotion of our beloved A.D. this past week. S.M. Lockridge, in a way only he can bring a passage to life, keys in on the more traditional translated word "dwell" in the last verse. He begins to get fired up about it, saying it doesn't say "tent" or "tabernacle" ... it says DWELL! God has promised guidance, direction, correction, instruction, provision, and protection for us throughout our entire life as we walk with Him. And then comes the big finish. We get to go home for good and dwell in His very presence.
As we celebrated A.D.'s life and mourned our loss, I couldn't escape the rapture of the thought. She's home for Christmas. She's dwelling in the presence of God. All that was temporary, broken, and painful has slipped away like a shadow in noonday sunlight. She is home for good. And as I walk along my own Crooked Path, my pulse quickens and my steps feel just a little lighter. God has a place prepared for me as well, and He will take me home for good at some point. That's an absolute guarantee.
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- Are you struggling today under the weight of your life and the circumstances around you? Do you find it hard to see past the next steps?
- Have you considered what it must be like to finally reach home for good? Are you confident that God is good enough to "get you through" until that time?
- Are you in tune with your Father enough that when you are away from Him as you are now, your heart aches like those servicemen in Tokyo? What is at the center of your longing?