A few weeks ago I got laid off. I’ve never had that happen to me before, and I honestly felt a little lost and somewhat fearful. I’ve always felt that I’m in control of my life. Ok, ok, so the family would say I am a “control freak”, but I disagree with that moniker. Let’s just say that I am “obsessively organized” and leave it at that J. Back to the point: Anytime in my life if I have left a job, I have always known exactly what was next. Not this time. So, I found myself with lots of time on my hands to think, pray and reflect. I thought that job would be my last job, and I just couldn’t figure out why it only lasted for two years. The word “sojourn” kept rolling around in my mind.
To sojourn means to stay for a time in a place; to stay temporarily; to stay for a time in a place not one’s own. I guess I always thought of that in terms of one who is a nomad, a wanderer. Someone with no plan. I didn’t think this word fit me, but it has fit different situations.
It seems that there has always been a “sojourner” in my life. As a very little girl my mother brought her father into our home at the end of his life. I was very young and don’t remember much about it, but I do know that he left his 3 kids after their mother, his wife, died, and he had no real contact with them. He abandoned them, to be raised by their grandparents, during the Depression. My mother was only 7 years old. Her father contacted all of his adult children when he needed help at the end of his life. According to my mother, her brother and sister were in no position to do anything for him, and my mother didn’t want to do anything for the man who made an already fragile childhood shatter into pieces. My father was the one who told my mom that they needed to help him, or she would regret it all of her life and always wonder what would have happened had she helped. So, begrudgingly, she gave in. She told me that she never regretted it. She still could never understand how any father could do what he did, but she knew when he died that she had made peace with it and had forgiven him as best she could. By bringing him into our home for a few weeks, she watched her children interact with him, she got to know him a little, and she no longer carried unforgiveness for him around her neck like a millstone.
Years later, when my aunt had broken her leg and needed some help, my parents did not hesitate to bring her under our roof until she healed. That’s the way it was. So, naturally, when I became an adult and got married, Jim and I followed suit. It seems that there are many times in our lives when someone has come to stay awhile. A friend and her family who were in-between houses, that same aunt who later lost a part of her foot and most of her eyesight to diabetes and needed to come and stay for a few months, a brother who was in the service and would stay when he was on leave, a sister who stayed one summer while she was in college, friends of the kids—lots of friends of the kids. Just people who needed a bed for awhile. One young man and his baby, whose wife left him because she decided she didn’t want to be a wife or a mother. College kids who needed a local place to stay during Christmas break, our own adult children and their families who needed a place for a spell, and the list goes on. Some stayed for days, some for weeks, some for months and some even for years. Sojourners, every one.
I remember at one point, when our youngest had gone off to college, I wanted to sell the house. We were now empty nesters, and it didn’t make much sense for us to keep a house that was clearly built to shelter an entire family. One day, as I was praying about that, I felt like God just said “no, you’re going to need this house”. We didn’t sell it. Had I known at that moment how many people would be “sojourning” here in the next few years, I would have sold it and moved to a one-bedroom something in a bad neighborhood with no parking!
It hasn’t always been easy, I’ll admit it. There were times here and there that Jim and I would just find a corner somewhere and hunker down and just wonder what was wrong with us. Why did we just give over our house to every one? But then, we would look at whoever was staying at the time, and see a look of peace and contentment as they were watching television or something, and we knew: we didn’t give them a house to stay in, but we created a home for them for a time. No one ever took undue advantage of us, but showed us great respect. It was hard for some of them at times. But we all survived. This was a place for them to stay a while before moving on to the next thing. And we all learned something from each other. I could write several books on our experiences, some nice and some not so nice, but all times of learning.
I have come to realize that we are all sojourners in this experience we call life. While part of our life (Jim & I) role seems to have been the ones who provide the place for the sojourners, overall, we are also sojourners. We are here in this world temporarily, passing through. Jim likes to say we are created to be “vice-regents” for God, caretakers and administrators of this place called earth. It’s what we do with our time here that is important. Jim and I just always felt as though providing a place to stay was our reasonable service to mankind: someone needed a bed, we had a bed, so we lent a bed. Plain and simple.
We sojourn through each phase of our lives, our jobs, our families; taking up residence for a time in that phase, before moving on to the next. It is up to us to treat the earth as if it is owned by someone else who has been kind enough to let us kick back and stay awhile. Treat this life with kid gloves, as if we know that it is a gift given to us for a short time. Enjoy life’s seasons, embrace the experience you are in right now, be ready to embark on the next journey. Our time here on this earth is like a grain of sand on a beach, a dot on the timeline of eternity.
Solomon, the wisest and richest man to ever live, at the end of his life, summed it all up, how we should sojourn through this life:
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecc.12:13-14