After a recent visit to Shiloh in Israel, I began to meditate on what it means to abide in Christ. I have always thought of abiding as residing or remaining somewhere; that definition, in fact, is correct. However, abiding in Christ does not necessarily mean we remain in the same physical or spiritual place forever. When the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness, they encamped according to very specific instructions from the Lord; not only did they set up camp when the pillar of cloud or fire stopped before them and break camp when the cloud or fire moved, but they also adhered meticulously to a set process He had given them for moving the tribes forward and transporting the components of the tabernacle. I would imagine the process would become fairly routine during the seasons when they moved frequently after shorter periods of residence in a particular location. However, the tabernacle remained at Shiloh for 367 years. Personally, if I had lived in a place that long, or my ancestors had lived in a place for centuries, I am not certain WHAT it would take for me to understand the signal to move on! That order to disencamp would become even more challenging if God had worked miracles in my life during my residence in that place.
Since my parents moved frequently, I never lived more than three years in one house (at least, not until much later as a married woman). As a result, I never associated home with a particular place, but rather only with my family. My sense of abiding was completely relationship-based. I experienced feeling of jealousy toward friends who actually had a home town, who were really “from” somewhere. However, in retrospect, God used my childhood to teach me something significant about abiding in Him.
As a child, I remember being fascinated with a place near my aunt’s cabin in the Colorado mountains called “The Deserted Village.” When we hiked over there, we could only imagine real cabins on the few nearly-buried wooden foundation beams that remained in the ground; most of them were nearly covered with grass and weeds. Still, I loved fantasizing about what life was like for the children who had lived there a couple of hundred years ago. I stood in that bygone village and concocted scenarios of a life that no longer existed in a small settlement that had since evaporated. Would I have considered pitching a tent there, only because I found the place intriguing? No, as my parents and siblings and I lived in a house in another state. The idea of corporate life there was captivating, but the thought of being alone there was terrifying.
That deserted village has a spiritual application. Often the Lord works wonders in our lives during a certain season; we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and sense His anointing in a particular spiritual activity or a certain period of our lives. When the instructions come to move out of that spiritual place and abandon that camp, we resist. After all, it was a good place, a place God Himself had called us to inhabit! However, abiding means to dwell in HIM, to sit on our Daddy God’s lap. That means that we need to move with Him to the new places He is establishing for us to occupy. If we insist on remaining in the glorious seasons of the past, we will miss the new adventures He has in store for us in Christ, and we may find ourselves living in a deserted camp.
Psalm 84, verses 5-7 expresses God’s heart for the man who does not insist on remaining stuck in the same place, the one who instead is willing to follow Him: “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.“
Father, help me to remember the mighty works You have done in past seasons of my life, but do not allow me to dwell there! Empower me to pursue You and leap into Your lap as You move me forward to new vistas and fresh challenges, in Jesus’ Name!