“I Go to Prepare a Place for You”
By Curtis K. Shelburne
When God created humans, he did not fashion us as disembodied spirits; he gave us bodies formed of matter, and a place in which to live. In fact, we do well to remember that Christianity is the only world religion that teaches the resurrection not just of the spirit, but of the body—an amazing “spiritual” body, yes, but a body nonetheless (see 1 Corinthians 15).
Our Creator gives wonderful hints in Scripture not just of a glorious future, but of an amazing place: “new heavens and new earth.”
Perhaps it was author and pastor Eugene Peterson whose words about this first hit home with me. Each one of us is born not just into this world but into a place in this world, a “locating” of ourselves that affects us deeply.
Just the tip of the iceberg is another author’s contention that even politically, folks living in cities and crowded places tend to focus more on law/regulation and folks living in wide open spaces focus more on freedom. “Place” shapes us and our perceptions and values.
Most folks who know me and my extended family very well know that my brothers and I, all four of us pastors, have for many years met twice a year at our maternal grandparents old homeplace. That small town (Hey, small towns, thank the Lord, remain the biggest and best parts of our nation!) and the little house there are precious to us. I promise you, though, most folks with no ties to that place would take one look at the house and drive on down the road to a motel.
For over 20 years, twice a year (over 40 “meetings,”) we’ve gathered at that place, come together for strength, rest, counsel, and fun, to recharge so as to have something to give back in our daily ministries and vocations.
It’s been rather amazing that for four guys, the nature of whose work means being always “on call,” the times when funerals, pastoral needs and crises, etc., have torpedoed the Robert Lee gathering have been fairly rare.
Last week’s Robert Lee gathering was, sadly, an exception. Two of us, the young troublemakers, just couldn’t pull it off this spring. I managed to get over to the old place for a few precious hours one day. Even more than usual, I found myself thinking of the blessing that place with my brothers has been, and of some lessons time has taught.
When I step through that old gate, I’m setting foot onto the place where my Key grandparents lived almost all of their lives. Joys. Sorrows. Times of great happiness. Times of deep and agonizing perplexity. Life. With God’s help, they made it through.
I see still piled by the wire fence around the “patch,” Grandmother’s collection of little rocks with hollows in them to be filled with her little cacti. Her life, and Granddaddy’s life, in this place affect me every day in many ways that I know and more that I do not. The place that molded them still shapes me.
I look back over the “brothers’ gatherings” there. We always bring laughter. We’ve also brought tears. Carefree times. Careworn times. Great times. Difficult times. But all times together. All those times in that place, more than enough to make it for us holy.
I remember Dad being there with us. And I thank his Father and ours for that place.
I’m so thankful we serve a Lord who has promised, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
The perfect place.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th and Avenue D Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.