This morning while sitting in the hotel lobby, I came to a realization I didn’t expect: Right now, in my life, everyday – I’m surrounded by things that don’t belong to me, and this feeling is just so strange.
Since our displacement over a month ago, my family and I have been sleeping in someone else’s bed, eating someone else’s food and often I see my son – wearing someone else’s clothes to school. But we’re in no way alone in this. So many families here in Chicagoland are displaced due to water damage from pipes that burst during the Sub-Antarctic Blast that hit a few weeks ago. Then there’s the families in California, many who have not yet fully recovered from the fires and even this morning, thousands more displaced because of severe flooding from above the average rainfall. As of this month, according to the UN Refugee Agency, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.”
All of this reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Revolutionary Road. In it the main character finds himself caught up in a tragedy of his own design. As he sits in the dark at work, he decides to record a memo:
“Knowing what you’ve got. Knowing what you need. Knowing what you can live without, that’s inventory control.”
Though he was in the situation because of his own life choices, the character in the story knew that he was at a pivotal moment, but he chose incorrectly, ascribed value to the wrong things and it literally destroyed his family.
As we make progress toward returning home, I deeply understand how displacement for any reason invites you to take inventory of what’s most important in your life.
Since our house fire, I’ve been praying with a new appreciation for all displaced families and I’ve listened to stories of other families displaced here at our long term stay hotel. No, our circumstances are in no way as dire as those displaced by war, but I believe that we all share some common emotions directly related to this experience. Reminders that humanity longs for Home. Reminders that if you don’t accept the invitation to take inventory of what’s most important in life before the unexpected strikes, it can really derail you if it’s all carried away or left behind.
Whether or not you’re currently in a situation where you’re surrounded by someone else’s things, I pray that you will join me in taking a careful and prayerful inventory of what have, what you need and what you can do without.
It’s my experience that this practice cultivates a lifestyle and a habit of appreciation that will serve you well if you’re forced away from home.
One of my favorite stories from the Bible tells us that right before Jesus calmed the storm at sea, a man approached him and proclaimed, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus responded with a word of caution: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” In other words – Jesus was displaced and He wants us to accept His invitation to embrace what really matters, because this leads to the discovery that He is our Home.
If you make your Home with God, no displacement can keep you from living out His love and sharing His light. And that’s my prayer for you, even if right now you actually can go home, that you’ll find Home in Him.
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When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head…”
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” – Matthew 8:18-20, 23-27 (The Bible)