Excitement was thick in the air as we bought his new school supplies, carefully packing them in the right shark backpack. The one with the whale shark on it – not the sharks that look like camouflage. It was all things kindergarten cute. Our blonde-haired, blue-eyed, first-born son was growing up faster than I liked. Some days I could still catch a glimpse of that chunky cheeked baby we prayed and tried so hard for. Three long years we waited for him.
We had just moved a year before to a new city. Close to our previous home, but still completely new and it just felt far away. I didn’t know a thing about this school in our district everyone raved about. Some days the anxiety of sending him off to a new, unexplored, unfamiliar place stopped me in my tracks. I spent many nights and early mornings praying for his teacher.
As the year began, God’s faithfulness to give us an amazing teacher was evident right away. She was truly a gift. This was His assignment on her life and she did it with excellence. She was so endearing and he really liked her.
As we came to see, elementary schools aren’t immune to the craziness of this world. And great teachers aren’t exempt from students that see, hear and play witness to world of things they should never even know about. Those children inadvertently school other classmates on this thing called life at a pace no parent can predict or prepare for. This schooling of sorts caused anxiety to play out in my son’s life in ways that completely baffled us.
In circumstances like these, when things aren’t neatly in your control – what do you do?
Let me suggest Psalm 84.
“My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:3
That was me. Dying for God to show up in a GIANT way. To change the situation, the children in the classroom, relief for my son from the craziness he saw. Heart and flesh crying out when I looked and saw the affects of his anxiety. I read on devouring the text.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, they are ever praising you.” Psalm 84:4-5
I was captivated. For months, and I mean months, I’ve been camped in this chapter. Studying word after word after word. You know what’s amazing? The choice to talk about the sparrow and the swallow. These are interesting birds because they’re nothing birds. In Jesus’ day they had very little value. And they were messy. They would build their nests in little nooks and crannies around the temple and their nests were a mess. Lose, misshapen nest of whatever they could find or it was made out of mud. But there they were – near His altar.
You see, any beautiful, prized, put-together bird could’ve been written about here. Birds with nests that are planned, polished, clean, and fully together. Birds that hold worldly value, whose soar demands the respect of others. But He chose the sparrow and the swallow.
Why? Because that’s me and that’s you. Because that’s the call He has placed on our lives! Bring your mess, your filth, your unpolished world and live your life near His altar – and dwell there.
I did a word study of altar. You ready?
[Altar] :: a place of sacrifice AND thanksgiving, a place where God brings change.
That altar – that’s where He wants us to live. And dwell. And praise Him. To allow Him to bring change. In His time. In His way. Sounds impossible, right?
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca [weeping], they make it a place of springs [refreshing], the autumn rains cover it with pools [blessings]. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
Friends, build your life at His altar. Allow Him to empower you in this season, whatever it is, and determine to set your heart on this pilgrimage, wherever He leads you. Just stay the course. When you weep – because you will – He will take those tears and make them refreshing and a place of blessing. You’ll look back and see you moved from strength to strength, empowering to empowering, one situation at a time. Why? Because you’ve camped your life – every aspect of it – on Jesus, at His altar – His place of transformation. Only Jesus can do that. No other route, no other way, no other choice can get you this kind of “return” on obedience and surrender and sheer determination to follow Him.
Jesus is not asking us to come cleaned up and polished before you make Him your home. He’s asking you to come just as you are, with all the messy situations and circumstances. The sparrow and the swallow life – determined to live your life right there by Him, regardless of whether you understanding everything playing out in your life. Feasting on His word, following wherever He leads, living that victorious life of moving from strength to strength that only He can give. This is life because Jesus is life. Don’t miss it!