The last 14 months, I have not had an official place of residence. I signed no lease and had no claims on any physical space. It was not on purpose; it was more by happenstance; the details, I will spare you.
What I will share is that, for my former-roommate and I, the possibility of living out of our cars was high (a possibility that we determined, after some reasearch and Google-doccing, would be quite feasible. It could be done.)
But, come January, one thing after another kept us from dwelling in our trusty Honda CR-V’s. One person after another. I got close – sometimes only a few days away – but there was never a night spent in my car.
The list is long; the people who offered, the people who stepped in. I still cannot understand the kindness of classmates, friends, family members, the hospitality of members of my church, and the inexplicable willingness of total strangers to welcome me into their homes. Dozens of different sleeping arrangements, not one of them being my car. It was an experience; fourteen or so months in the delicate balance of trust. A relatively short time. A relatively long one.
And while I cannot wait to have a dresser again, to no longer sift through boxes in storage units, to leave my toothbrush in one place, I am so grateful, for what it’s taught me.
- Humility. Oh, it is HARD to accept help sometimes. It is awkward, and uncomfortable, and your pride takes a blow. I don’t like to be the one that needs assistance. But over and over, I was welcomed into homes, offered the chance for short-term rent in spare rooms, given pull out couches and air mattresses. I was forced to admit: I needed help. This was humbling, this was hard. But it was also freeing; there was no illusion, of having things “together”. There was no pretending, that I was perfectly independent and fine. I had to learn to gracefully navigate my own humanity, in more ways than one.
- How often do I keep the Lord at arm’s length, when he waits in love, patiently, for me to be honest about my inabilities and needs? How much of Him do I forgo, trying to stick it out and figure it out on my own? What depths of peace and joy do I never taste, because I would rather hold on to my pride and try (in vain) to save myself than to give up my independence and live in freedom?
- Trust. The Lord would still be good, even if I had spent every night this last year in my car. But in so many different ways (physical, emotional, spiritual) he was providing and giving me more than I deserved again and again. I was cared for, not just in the provision of shelter; many of these people spoke into my life and encouraged me and were present with me through pain and growth and finding community. Even in Burlington, even in (arguably) the strangest season of my life, He gives good gifts.
- Worry comes from lack of trust. I am convinced. If I trust His ultimate goodness, why would I ever fear what could possibly come my way? Not that he spares us from pain, but that the rescue goes beyond the temporary experience. Not that I am guaranteed ease and comfort, but that He offers something deeper, better, untouchable and sure. A living hope. An inheritance that can not decay. (Not just that it will not; He says it CAN not. 1 Peter 1). Redemption from the empty way of life.
- The future uncertainties: where I will live, where I will work – I choose to want to choose, to attempt to choose, today and every day, to hand them over. To operate in trust. (How many times, once I saw what He was up to, did it seem so silly to have been so worked up/fearful over?)
- “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8. Again, not that I am promised all my wants, not that hard things won’t come; but he is powerful and good and wise beyond measure.
- Gratitude. I cannot choose but to be so, so grateful. I didn’t deserve all this. I didn’t expect it. I will treasure the trust I learned and the experience forever. And out of this gratitude, I look forward to cherishing willingness, to choosing to be an agent of provision in the strange journey of others.
- This, this is key. Realizing what grace has given us, and realizing that we have no right to withhold grace from others. What I have been given was undeserved – this love, this acceptance, these gifts. If I deserved them, I could hold that over people and say, “work harder, and you can have some grace. Do better, and you can have some love.”. But knowing I didn’t deserve anything either takes away all of that. It takes away any right to exclusion, to judgment. I think we all, myself included, need more of this awareness on a daily basis.
A dresser has become a symbol for me of a stable place. And one day, maybe soon (but maybe not, you never know) I will use one again, in a place I call home for more than a month or two.
I’m excited for dressers, for the chance to invest in a place, in a community. One of the gifts of this last year has been the chance to see (up close, in real life) what roots can mean, how open hearts bless others, how these things can change a community and cherish people and be radically different than the individualistic America we see everywhere, and expect as a rule.
Thank you, to every one of you that let me sleep under your roof. For the awkward 6-week rent, the weekend crashes, the once a week spare rooms, the incredibly generous space you shared with me. I learned how to let go a little bit more: of plans, of security, of the frantic race for safety. And this is worth more to me than I can say.