by Brittney Chan
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth...But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Hebrews 11:13, 16
She was sitting alone in the bustling dining hall of The Hope Center in Anchorage, Alaska. Our group from Heritage Bible College had just finished participating in the morning worship service with Bro. James Martin. They were now serving lunch to members of the city’s homeless community. The fact that she was alone must have been what caught my eye because immediately, I wanted to talk to her. Her ragged, black Jansport was positioned protectively to her side and I could tell it had probably seen a thing or two.
I plopped down in front of her. ”Hi! My name’s Brittney!” I said in the most you’re-gonna-want-to-be-my-friend way I could muster up. I pushed the conversation past the skeptical look that spread across her face and after a while...and a corny joke or two...she eased into my company. Tamera*, very slowly and cautiously, started to open up and share her story with me. I could tell by her dialogue that she’d been a hard-working, educated woman and I was eager to figure out how she’d landed there, of all places.
She had come from the East Coast. She retired and left her career of over 20 years just to escape a domestic violence situation. My heart broke for her as she told me of the man and the life she had no other option but to leave behind. She now carried all of her possessions in that backpack beside her.
I could feel my eyes well up with tears - they are, again, while I write this - as I realized the magnitude of her story. Her life’s script could have belonged to me. Or my mom. Or my aunt. Or my best friend. I opened my mouth to offer some kind of hope; but what she said next, left me speechless.
Her dark eyes relayed the sincerity of her words, ”You know, in a way, homelessness is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It has taught me to see good in everyone and that God is always with me. It helped me escape the rat race of life that I was stuck in. And I am most appreciative of people like you all, who come to us to give of God and of yourselves.”
All of a sudden, it was like both Tamera and God were talking to me at the same time. As her lips continued moving, all I could hear was: “Because if you’re not leading people to Me, Brittney, what are you even doing?”
The next day, we packed our bags and boarded the planes that would carry us back to Savannah, Georgia; but Tamera’s conversation lingered and crossed back over four time zones with me.
How could she say that losing the security of a home...a marriage...a 401k...was a blessing? What about you, friend? How would you feel if the pillars of stability in your life were ripped away from you? The misfortunate events of her’s had allowed her to tap into a deeper gratitude and I wanted to be able to identify with a focus like that.
That was February of last year. Little did I know what lie ahead in the year 2020. To say it has been both privately and publicly challenging is an understatement.
I thought about the day Tamera must have made the decision to run. Did she trace her fingers over freshly bruised skin or rehearse the angry threats of her partner? Where did the hope come from that empowered her to leave the life she knew to search for a better one?
Something or someone made her feel like “home” wasn’t home anymore.
Because if we’re honest, for a lot of us, the comforts of home aren’t necessarily in the four walls of our dwelling places; but in the people we dwell with and the daily routines we go through. But what happens when those relationships or routines are broken as a result of death, divorce, or pandemic times?
It isn’t unreasonable to think that many of us may feel out of place right now. The uncertainties of our current situations can leave us searching for “home” or just a place of rest for our weary souls. Maybe it’s the chaos of an election year. Maybe your own body has started to become unreliable. Maybe it’s the empty space at the supper table. Maybe it’s the stack of bills that add up to more than what’s brought in. You and I both can agree that it’s almost second-nature to become tangled up in the cares of this life.
But don’t lose your faith, my friend.
Though we cannot neglect the responsibilities of our present world, let me encourage you to keep moving forward with the hopes that something better lies ahead. If you can understand those feelings of “homelessness” that I’m talking about, let me remind you that we were never meant to feel at home here, anyways.
“Laying up my treasures in that home above,
Trusting, fully trusting, in my Savior’s love.
Doing what I can for Heaven’s holy Dove,
I’m getting ready to leave this world.”
Can we make the decision today to let God renew our vision and freshen our focus?
You never promised a life without struggles and hardships, but You provided the Holy Spirit to come and to comfort us during those times. I pray that my sister reading this right now, who finds herself in a season of questioning, would be encouraged in You. Let her know that You are for her and not against her. God, I take courage in knowing that You can use ALL things to bring about good in our lives. Open our eyes to the opportunities to be Your hands and feet to those around us during the upcoming holidays. Keep us safe in Your arms until we are at home in Heaven with You.
In Jesus’s name,
*Name has been changed to protect the individual involved.