A Sense of Place

Some nearly always seem settled and not just in survival mode no matter where they are or whom they’re with. Others seem to deal with near-continual uprootedness and never land, rarely feeling comfortable with people or space. What’s up with this?

Last week at Cook County Jail I was invited to bring a word to nearly 30 dudes in jumpsuits. The essence of the content follows.

Paul writes in Philippians 4.12, 13 “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

When I first read those words I was in process of coming to saving faith in Jesus. I don’t even remember where I saw them, either a booklet or a book or whatever, but there was a bit of writing that included some six or seven scriptures and these verses were part of it.

I immediately thought “Either this guy is flippin’ CRAZY or a complete LIAR or else he has what I need and -where did he get this?!”

Now some who riff on such things might beat you up royally about faith. The Bible says even faith is a gift from God. But consider that Jesus told us “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But His full statement includes these words just before those: “”But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”! (Matthew 5.44, 45)

The context is my/your/own attitude (get this) toward those you really dislike. Jesus uses the term “enemies” and says we must pray for them. Note also the context is not to pray for their misery to increase, but in the broad realization that God has control of sun and rain and knows how to minister to them -and us… according to our real need.

God apparently brings both sun and rain into all human experience.

He is further quoted by Luke “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…” (Luke 6.27)

Isn’t that what God does every day? He loves His enemies working to build bridges, not some celestial fiend who takes pleasure in trashing people. He waits for prodigals to come home. Isn’t that a revelation of His patience and grace even toward sinners -like you and me?

What does all this have to do with our feelings of love, acceptance, comfort in our surroundings and “place”? What about when you both feel and in stark reality are repeatedly treated as a misfit, what then?

Obviously after staying put with people and place, if repeated, in situations like that it’s time to move on, go elsewhere, hard as it may be, to make new friends in a fresh place. The rub is when you find this to be a fairly common “story of my life” thing. Then I’d advise some serious soul-searching and before God and your mirror, honest truth-telling self-to-self. “A friend must show themselves to be friendly.” (Pro. 18.24)

Two key reasons I finally surrendered to Jesus Christ were 1. I was an out-of-control self-loathing addict, a narcissist of the first order, and hated my life 2. The “lights came on” within my own thinking as I realized in my addictions and influence I had wrecked so many people via drink, drugs and simply being a massively self-centered jerk who was trying to “find my place” but never arriving at that moving target.

I cannot honestly say anyone was abusing me but if I wasn’t satisfied by what I was getting out of others I created a huge space between us. This is part of why as a musician I was in more than a dozen bands between my 13th and 18th birthday!

I would join, leave, re-join, leave, start a band, kill it, on and on. I was out of control and largely wanted control. Wherever I went there I was and I brought my internal turmoil in (and out) the door with me.

I had to learn to see myself through God’s eyes, through God’s Word in particular and the more I studied it I recognized my life-long habits of self-protection to the extent I finally realized that the far greater portion of the time, the greatest enemy I’d ever had -and consistently so… was ME.

HOW could Paul talk about being content in -all- circumstances?!!

I suggest his sense of identity and therefore place was in the Person of Jesus Christ, and in the mission God gave Him on earth. He was repeatedly rejected, heckled, beaten, stoned to the extent his enemies left him thinking he was dead… and on that occasion he got up and walked (likely limped or was helped to move) back into that very town!

Paul’s sense of place was “in Christ”, and where God told Him to go and share the Good News of Jesus he went. His contentment had a price, that being both Jesus’ Own blood as well as Paul’s blood at times, chains as a criminal and as far as we know, his own death by the self-worshiping Roman government.

Paul further writes to young Timothy “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” Well godliness isn’t automatic nor a matter of self, rather a deepening relationship with God whereby He works more and more of HIS character and nature in us. THAT my friends, is a miracle and a sweet one!

“Place” isn’t about me. It’s not about you or us, not entirely about any particular group of assembled “us”. It’s about Him and others in need wherever you are.

Lastly, there are certainly those with mental illness, folks sustaining injuries from accidents, war and etc., and there is no quick fix if these are true, legitimate issues in regard to our topic. We can and should pray for, be kind to and do what we can to help such people link with professionals where fruitful results at least sometimes happen.

I note the weather is changing as I write this, back and forth from warm and sunny to rainy and now quite windy and colder as autumn comes to Chicago.

Throughout my lifetime I’ve experienced bitter cold and brutal heat. It’s all part of the journey.

Do I always LIKE what’s going on? Nope. But there is something deeper happening inside me. God the Holy Spirit lives, works and changes my attitude. I’m at peace as I’ve found my place.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

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