Hometown Lesson

It’s a pilgrimage, really. Single. Married. Married with children. It doesn’t matter. It’s inevitable for us all. Returning home. “Home for the Holidays” as they call it. Thanksgiving or Christmas – the feeling is the same. You figuratively and literally put on pause the life you have built, have come to know as the new normal, to spend a few days under your parents’ roof.

Whether you love or hate “coming home”, the truth is that no matter our age our parents are thrilled. And when it’s over we can say we did our part to keep the home-fires burning.

For me, this week marks another Thanksgiving spent in my hometown. Fort Smith is one of those towns that everyone is happy to be from, but not necessarily a place everyone is clamoring to live. But, like a lot of hometowns across this great country, the longer I’ve been away the more I have missed it. My classic joke is, “everything is just like I left it…which is the way it’s been for several decades now.” Make a trip to my hometown these days, though, and you’ll see a quite a lot to…write home about.

On this gorgeous fall day, my dad and I were doing what he absolutely loves most – to drive around and talk. He could literally ride anywhere as long as he is talking and could literally talk about anything as long as he is riding around. The last few times I’ve come home to visit he insists on driving around a newly developed portion of the county. It is really incredible. Commercial, industrial, residential – this area suddenly has a little bit of everything. The city could literally hire my dad as a personal tour guide. It seems to have become his life mission to know every single detail – public knowledge or sometimes made-up – about every acre of land and every frame of structure.

The drive on this particular Monday was especially melancholy for me, though. At almost every turn a different conversation was going on inside my head. There was a voice that continued to remind me of big mistakes I’d made, struggles I’d had or ways I’d disappointed God over the years. Now granted, I was never an ax-murder and I’ve never run drugs through Mexico. But for a season of life during my young adult years I was distant from God – you guessed it – while living in my hometown. Every decision I made and every Thursday night on the town was about me. My wants, my desires. And today, this drive around town only seemed to bring all those embarrassing memories back, front and center. The all too familiar twin brothers of regret and remorse seemed to stare at me from the back seat, through the rearview mirror.

But then something extremely unexpected happened. The Lord’s voice broke through. Once loud and dominant, now interrupted and vanished was the voice of the Enemy. As I crested yet another gently rolling hill I saw yet another a semi-finished subdivision. They were everywhere; as much a part of the landscape as the sixty-foot pines that pierced through the baby blue sky. Almost audibly I could hear God’s beautiful Words as penned by the author Paul to the church at Philippi, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (1:6) Just like the construction site on an elaborate subdivision, so too is my life being built by sanctification.

As a broken, finite man my life will have setbacks and delays. Am I to celebrate those periods of life? Should I be apathetic towards the sin that so easily entangles and postpones the work of God? Certainly not. But the lesson God so wonderfully blessed me with today we should never forget: God has an incredible plan for our lives. Lives that will bring Him glory which will fulfill us to our core. And when we do make mistakes or even if we do live a season of life distant from God, He is never distant from us. When our construction site has a setback and we have to push back the completion date, He remains faithful to continue leading, guiding and directing us. In the words of my good buddy, Ed – “He takes our broken pieces and makes masterpieces!”

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.