One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. Psalm 27:4
Kristian and I lived in a tiny apartment in New York City for a number of years in a neighborhood with a higher crime rate than any I had lived in before. I must confess I cried on move-in day and I questioned God's apparent path for us. But the new adventure brought a dose of reality and exposed me to a whole new world from which I had previously been pretty sheltered.
The school of hard knocks taught me a quick lesson: To dwell amidst chaos and utter brokenness can overwhelm the soul, and if the soul is not dwelling in the Lord and his Word, it will be overwhelmed.
In the midst of discomfort, the Holy Spirit, who plays the role of the Great Comforter, revives the soul through his presence and through scripture.
Dwelling in the Lord meant being receptive to what He wanted to teach me, and he had some work to do on my heart there in New York.
As we walked the streets to and from work everyday we were faced with the reality of broken humanity all around us. As we encountered the folks who were hurting and homeless in subway stations, as we talked with the young girl addicted to drugs who spent her days on our apartment stoop, God used the words of scripture to drastically change the way we saw our brothers and sisters who were in desperate need everywhere we turned.
We were forced to respond to words like those in the book of James that say “What is religion that the Lord accepts as pure and faultless? To care for orphans and widows in their affliction.”
Did I truly understand what it meant to care for someone in their affliction? It was a bit simpler to care for someone who had it all together, but it really interrupted my life when I tried to care for someone in their affliction. I had heard the story of the Good Samaritan my whole life, but was I grasping what it really meant? It wasn't merely about helping someone here and there as I passed them on the road of life. It was about the interruption of my plans, my budget, and my emotions. So I prayed for that willingness that didn’t come naturally.
As the words of Scripture helped illuminate my selfishness, they simultaneously penetrated my heart with the staggering reality of God's great love and care for me, that love that enables us to release a tight grasp on our own will, and open our hands to receive from God, and bless others.
And somehow, despite occasionally hearing gun shots on the street below as we lay in bed at night, I came to a place where I had never felt so secure in God’s perfect placement. To dwell in peace requires devotion to His Words. It is not a duty, but a delight.
Thankfully, I no longer hear gun shots while I'm trying to sleep, but I am again living in the midst of a potentially chaotic season involving caring for foster children (in their affliction). The same reality holds true: Dwelling in peace means dwelling in Him.