As we enter into this New Year, there have been several changes for our family, and I imagine the same is likewise for most. I have moved out of my work with Pamoja and into pastoral ministry at Calvary Chapel Nairobi. Kristen, Hannah, and I also recently moved out of our room at the orphanage and found a quaint, two bedroom house down the road. I found myself getting excited about more space and greater privacy. Have you ever found yourself yearning for a little bit bigger buffer between you and the rest of the world? We’ve lived our first three years of marriage in a single room on a 100x100ft plot shared by my office, twenty children, and five adults in the middle of an overcrowded slum just outside Nairobi, Kenya. It was beautiful at times and hard to breathe at others.
At the close of last year, my wife and I found ourselves reading through the book of Revelation. In chapter 21, John writes about the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem. In reading through this passage, my wife asked the kind of question I have become accustomed to answering with, “I don’t know.” She said, “Andrew, how are all the believers throughout history going to fit into the new Jerusalem?” I am thankful for these questions as they always lead me to learn something about God I had never thought of before. As I pondered this question, I began to notice some things about the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem and it revealed to me some areas of my heart and longings in my soul that may not be so much like Jesus after all.
You see, as we find ourselves yearning for more space, more privacy, a greater buffer between us and the world, the Bible may be telling us God sees things a bit differently. Jesus wants us to know that as this new heaven, earth, and Jerusalem are being presented, a loud voice from the throne declares, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” As I find myself looking for thicker, soundproof walls, the Bible tells me the new Jerusalem has the appearance of crystal, made of pure gold, like clear glass. As I take into account where the perimeter fence of our new home might be vulnerable to an uninvited buffalo or thief, I read the gates of the new Jerusalem will never be shut.
As a child, I always pictured having a huge mansion in heaven with a private go-cart track in the backyard and a lazy river to take me from my bedroom to every other part of the house. As I get older, I am realizing that go-carts aren’t as fast as cars, and heaven probably doesn’t include my own personal episode of MTV Cribs. I am learning the times I cherish most in life are spent around tables and in cozy quarters with family and friends. I am learning just how much God values fellowship and community. I am learning that God wants us to be generous with our lives and our space.
As I sit here in my living room waiting for the sun to rise, I anxiously await new additions to our home and our family this month. My wife will give birth in a couple weeks to our second daughter, but today, a prodigal child is coming home from their wanderings. She is travelling from the border of Kenya and Uganda and will arrive at our home this afternoon. We have prayed for this day ever since the moment she walked out the door at the orphanage months ago. We are grateful for God’s protection over her and thankful for the opportunity to foster this child for the next season.
Our spacious, two bedroom home will quickly fill up and will feel small and a bit overcrowded again and I can’t help but think this might just be the way God intended for us to live. There is coming a day when God will make all things new. Is it possible this new Jerusalem might be filled with more dinner tables, cafes, coffee shops, living rooms, and places of public worship rather than big, private, spacious mansions? I find myself longing more and more for the day we will live in cozy quarters with perfect people in the presence of a God who chose to dwell with humanity in a glass house. May we be generous with our space and keep the doors of our lives open and transparent during the time we have been given here so this new Jerusalem might have more opportunities to be filled with our friends and family this year.
Pastor Andrew, Kristen, Hannah, Lilia, and Sheila