Happy day of Epiphany!
Today I want to share the story behind my word for this new year.
I was driving to Nashville on a Sunday afternoon in mid December. Solo road trips are the best time to breathe, renew, pray, and think. It is a time I am completely alone and all I can do is focus on the road and be open to whatever God has for me in that moment. I-65 was a breeze with barely any cars, but the time was expectant. I did not know what I was looking for, but I knew somehow God had something to show me on the road. After just having finished fall semester of senior year earlier that week, seasons were changing and the exciting unknown after graduation felt ever close. I was searching for something but I could not quite grasp it yet.
I had been listening to Christy Nockels’ podcast earlier that week called Glorious in the Mundane. About an hour into my drive I was thinking about those words — giving glory to God in the mundane life things — not unlike driving in a car. So I asked God to show me His glory in the seemingly mundane of that moment. Then I looked up ahead to see a street sign hanging on the side of a bridge overpass in Hartselle, Alabama. The street was called Bethel Road.
The word stuck with me the rest of the drive to Nashville, and it carried through my entire stay that week. Bethel showed up all over the city. On a billboard sign, a church building, and my music list. I wanted to know why Bethel kept popping up so I googled like every good googler would google. And of course, I prayed. Always a good idea too.
Bethel means the house of God. God’s house — God is in this place, here with us.
Genesis 28 tells of Jacob and his encounter with God as he stops to rest on a journey. Jacob sees God descending a staircase and speaking to him. Jacob called this place Bethel.
"What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you. Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it! It is non other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz." -Genesis 28:15-19
Bethel became a place people went in troublesome times to seek God’s help. John W. Ritenbaugh in Prayer and Seeking God further describes Jacob’s encounter with God.
"In other words, God came down the ladder; He revealed Himself as being there. This is why Jacob said, “God is in this place,” and why he named it Bethel, meaning “this is God’s house.” Not that God is in heaven, but that Jacob’s God was right there—that was His house.
At Bethel, God confirmed that He had chosen Jacob and that He would follow through with him nonetheless. Jacob arrived a man with a price on his head and no future. He was transformed so that he had a future and a hope with which he could live."
Bethel. A place of renewal and transformation. A refuge for people to go and find God who gracefully provides and rescues.
These words sink deep in my worn but never worn out bones. 2018 had been a year of immense joy and excitement with a side of mold toxicity sickness, untamable migraines, and a wonder of things unknown. For me this word breathes direction and peace. On that drive I was searching for direction and I found Bethel, God’s house. I found peace, too, in knowing my true north is constant.
From Jacob’s encounter Genesis 28, I found these truths hidden in my heart:
- God came down to live in us so our home is forever with Him. No matter where we go, God gives us a hope and a future with which we can live. He leads us knowing there is a place for us there.
- God meets us where we are and walks with us. His presence keeps us.
- Hearts are transformed when God makes His home there. It is opened to things we never knew could be possible.
"But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ." -Hebrews 3:6
We are God’s house. Yes, you and me!
When God builds His home in hearts, transformation begins — Chip and Joanna style. He can work with worst houses in the best neighborhoods, amen? He may tear down walls, expand rooms, repair structural damage, but He will not let us crumble to the ground. Yes, He may take some walls down to the studs, but He is building something beautiful — more than I can ask or think! He is building something beautiful in you, too.
This home is my starting place and my place of rest. I am free to follow wherever He leads because I know He is with me. So I must be courageous and confident in my hope for Christ for I am Christ’s house. Courageous and confident are in you, too. Grab hold of it. Yet He who builds a house is worthy of more praise than the house itself. (Hebrews 3:3-4). That is why my life seeks to live to the praise of God’s glory — giving very praise to the God who works through me and dwells in me.
He builds everything and He’s not finished yet. He brings everything He begins to completion (Philippians 1:6). Trust the Builder. And rest. Resting allows for renovation and opens hearts for expansion. The first step is opening the front door.
As the year is just unfolding, so is more meaning behind Bethel — my 2019 word. I am still learning and seeking, and I’d love for you to come along too. I am absolutely fascinated with how much growth can come from one simple word, and I know there is more to come soon.