When you have the choice, you usually choose to live with the people you like the best and even love the most (although that’s not always the same thing). I did anyway, of course! Out of all the men in the world I picked to marry the one who is my husband. Not because I looked at them all and thought, hmm, he’s 10th on the list so he’ll do. Obviously not, I picked number 1! And now that I’m a parent, I tend to fall in the same trap as others by believing my kids are the most wonderful and lovable of the lot (most days). It’s always vaguely surprising to me when I see other parents feel exactly the same way about their own offspring. Anyway, my point is, it’s very unlikely you’d deliberately choose to live with the unlovable and not-at-all-nice.
There are a few who I can think of with whom I definitely would not want to share a home. One of them would be the angry man who flashed his car lights at me for not pulling over quick enough so that he could overtake me before we reached the roundabout. The other would be the women in the supermarket who were shouting at their multitudes of children. I couldn’t see them because they were in the next aisle but even so there was a lingering odour of families who had limited access to sanitation. Those people who don’t check the tick boxes of our mental lists of nice, kind, sweet, clean, polite etc. would probably be the last we’d seek to invite into our homes.
The irony though is that the people I do live with are the ones I am the most unkind to and to whom I show my worst side. Furthermore, I could tell you in detail about all of the annoying things they do and say, their irritating little habits and the brutal way they treat one another. And they could definitely say the same about me! Learning to live with and forgive one another is what makes living in a family both so challenging and yet so rewarding in it’s safety. However, even though I know my nearest and dearest so well, I still don’t know absolutely everything. Is there anybody who can confess to having shared all of their deepest darkest secrets? To be fully known and to be fully loved is a rare combination.
So it struck me when I realised that God, after he rescued the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, chose to come and live in a tent in the middle of their encampment.
“Then Moses set up the courtyard around the tabernacle and altar and put up the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard. And so Moses finished the work.
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” – Exodus 40:33-38
God rescued this nation of slaves and then lived with them, with visible reminders. It’s difficult for us to imagine what the ‘glory of the Lord’ would have been like but I’m sure the fire by night must have been fairly awe-inspiring! They wouldn’t have been a lovely lot to live with as they moaned and complained and were ungrateful. They were disobedient so as a result got lost which meant their couple of week’s journey lasted for forty years. The remarkable thing is that God never left His people alone that whole journey so that He could bring them to the land He had promised them.
Later on in the New Testament, writing about Jesus, John in chapter 1 verse 14 says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The incarnation is an event we usually associate with Christmas time but the fact is it’s a constant reality that I find amazing. God chose to become a man and live amongst us. He who knows us fully, more intimately than any human possibly could, loves us and still chooses to come by His Holy Spirit live with those who invite Him in. Even me with my unkindness as to whom I’d choose to live with! It’s a mystery but true that by Him we are both absolutely fully known and fully loved and he still invites us to live with Him.
“I have a home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first
You know our pain
But You show hope
can rise again
up from the grave
Abide with me
Abide with me
Don’t let me fall
And don’t let go
Walk with me
And never leave
God abide with me”- Matt Redman