Settling in Wherever God Sends You
By Jill Briscoe
Living out of a suitcase is one art that I know a lot about. I was excited to receive my two-million mile award from United Airlines this year! But I would say I still struggle with the whole packing thing to this day.
Unpacking your suitcase is an art that goes along with travel. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman, but I have to unpack my suitcase. As soon as I arrive somewhere Stuart seems to have no such necessity. I have this inner need to “nest” if I’m in one spot for two days!
One day my husband opened his tiny weekend case on the spare bed in our hotel room, took out his book and stretched out with a satisfied little noise to use the few hours well before we started talking our heads off. Not so me. I unpacked carefully into the top drawers, hung up my clothes, organized the bathroom, sorted out my talks in order and checked on my itinerary. Then I made us a cup of tea (of course.)
“What are you doing?” asked my spouse from his recumbent position on the bed. “Unpacking,” I answered briefly. “We are only here for two nights,” he said wonderingly.
“Leave me alone,” I responded. “I’m ‘nesting.’ Once I’m unpacked I’ll be ready to go.”
Symbolically, perhaps by settling in this way, I feel I have come to stay. I am here to do “people ministry” and I don’t need to interrupt the precious minutes finding stuff!
“Well if you used a smaller bag,” began Stu. “Don’t go there,” I interrupted him, “only in heaven will I be able to do with a case your size!”
I try to unpack myself into every place we go at the start, so that I can feel like I’m staying forever. This way every person is important. I need to listen well, to figure out as soon as possible why God sent me here at this time for this person so that I may meet and relay that I have all the time in the world. I need to be fully engaged.
Years ago we visited some first-time missionaries in a difficult environment. They had been sent for a four-year assignment. It was “a hardship post” and as we arrived I thought,”Thank You, Lord that you sent them instead of me!” I would have found it very difficult to settle into this hugely challenging place particularly with a young family!
We had not been there long before I realized the young wife had not unpacked her suitcase. Literally and figuratively, two years into their work one of her large cases lay open in the corner of a room where it had lain since they arrived in the country.
Sure enough she had not been able to adjust and the open case said it all - “I want to go home!”
A year later they came home to stay.
Where does God have you at the moment? Have you unpacked your suitcase? Give it a go! Married to the calling from God, are you talking loudly about staying but secretly planning to go and live wherever that may be for you?
I have learned in my own pilgrimage not to ‘go home’ until I have given my situation a chance - by unpacking as if I’m there for life! Sometimes the adjustment happens; other times once I’ve promised to unpack and “nest” it still doesn’t work. But first I determine to unpack my suitcase and know if things don’t work out, God knows I gave it all I had. Therein lays peace!
A good biblical exercise is to read Philippians 2 and spend some time watching the Lord Jesus unpacking His suitcase for our sakes - first in Bethlehem, then in Nazareth, then in Galilee and Jerusalem. I want to be like Him when I grow up!
So How Do You Start Unpacking?
In every big decision there will always be the unacceptable to accept, the unavoidable to tackle, and further unexpected decisions will have to be made. Humility, godly input, a willingness to regroup, and seeking answers from God in His Word and prayer, will find you guided by the Holy Spirit day-by-day and moment-by-moment. But - it starts with unpacking!
- Look back on the reason that brought you to this situation. Did you seek God’s guidance? Don’t have post mortems and second-guess yourself.
- In our situation, we set about meeting with the disgruntled groups to listen and talk to them. Much was accomplished with the vast majority of these people. We also leaned on the elders and wisdom inside and outside the fellowship to resolve the problems. Even though some people left the church, together we were able to bridge the divide with those who stayed, and the Lord helped us to live with the rest.
- In the end, we “unpacked into the unexpected” and “accepted the unexplained” and sought to get on with the job at hand.