The Land of Familiarity
Words by Christina Crawford
Another summer day was beginning as I followed the country roads to my friend’s home. Weeping willows marked the entrance. Clouds of dust rose in the air as my car rocked up the gravel drive. My friend welcomed me in, and our conversation quickly began as we prepared breakfast together. We had much to catch up on.
She and her family had moved back after being out of state for several years. In returning to her childhood hometown, the full picture was still unclear. Uncertainty loomed over the ministry responsibilities she would take on, the workplace and hobbies she'd return to, even the relationships that would develop or be renewed.
“I'm in a familiar place,” she told me, “living in the same general area as before. But I'm different. I've changed. When we moved back here, I knew I couldn’t walk forward in the same way I had before.”
She may have been living in the same physical location, but the Lord's purposes for her were different this time around.
As we grow up in years and in the Lord, we anticipate new seasons, new circumstances in which we can learn and grow. But sometimes, to our surprise—and perhaps dismay—we circle back to a place that rings with familiarity. It can be easy to respond with indignation when the Lord places us back in an environment we've already visited. "Lord, I've been here before ... why am I back again?" We're certain we've learned "the lesson" of that season and are ready to move on (to greater things).
For me, the land of familiarity looks like the brick home I grew up in. Like my friend, home was a return trip. After college, I moved back to help care for my father whose mind and body are being crippled by a rare dementia. In a familiar environment, with people I know well, it can be tempting to rush through my days, follow the rhythms I’m used to, or just go through the motions in a way.
Each of us who finds ourselves in mundane territory for a prolonged period—the 25-year-old caregiver, the middle-aged mother of four, the seasoned woman dedicated to her job for decades—craves something fresh and new. With so much of our world colored in sameness, we wonder, Lord, what are you trying to teach me? Perhaps God is waiting for us to champion patience, master kindness, or perfect self-control before he will lead us to greener pastures? While the Lord is at work to mature us in those areas, the unfolding reality is grander and deeper than improved moral behavior in the midst of the mundane.
Beyond teaching us a lesson or even altering our circumstances, Christ is committed to our transformation. The paradoxical truth is stunning. The One who remains faithful and unchanging is changing us and calling us to walk in faithfulness.
As I reflect on the conversation with my friend, I see the truth of her words spilling over into my own life. I’m not the same person I was when I began caring for my dad. Yes, I am back in my old room, I sleep in the same bed, and drive down familiar roads. In many ways, nothing is different—and yet everything is changing. As I dwell in the land of familiarity and care for my declining father, Jesus is leading me beyond balanced living; he is calling me to faithful obedience. He is calling me to be faithful in the familiar.
In Jesus Christ, we have One who has gone before us and lived in perfectly faithful obedience. Through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, Jesus carried out his ministry in faithfulness to his Father’s will. What did faithful obedience look like for the Son of God? Did every lame person walk? Was every demon cast out? Did every person believe his message?
At the close of Christ’s earthly ministry, whole towns remained opposed to his message (Matt. 11:20–24). Sickness and disease had not been wholly cured. Even the Jewish people, the recipients of God’s committed faithfulness for generations—rejected the Son of God. From the outside, Christ’s faithfulness seemed to have failed. Calvary appeared to be the ultimate defeat. The faithfulness of God’s Son looked like foolishness as he hung dying on a Roman cross. In the face of Friday’s seeming defeat, however, Sunday’s glorious victory is revealed. Christ’s faithful obedience even unto death ushered in life, new and abundant. Christ’s faithful obedience made it possible for us to not only be transformed and reborn, but also to walk in faithful obedience just as he did through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
As we take on this mantle of faithful living in the familiar, the Lord opens our eyes to see his provision anew—to see that even cloaked in the mundane, his work is meaningful. Caregiving for my dad brings unglamorous days, but in the midst of the repetition, the Lord calls me to fix my eyes on him, the One who is forever faithful, even unto death.
Living faithfully also means our hearts are ready to engage with painful realities and press into the difficult places. It’s easy to just get through the day caring for my dad’s physical needs, but faithfulness means my obedience goes past making his lunch or putting on his shoes. In being present with Dad as we weep over loss together, in being patient with him when he is worried and confused, and in humbly asking him for forgiveness when I’ve wronged him, Jesus is revealing the rich reality of responding to his leading into the hard places. For it is those holy moments of faithful living that the Lord is calling me to embrace, and to see his hand at work.
With our eyes open and our hearts ready to press in, we have the joy of experiencing his new mercies. Our responsibilities for the day may be predictable and ordinary, but the Lord’s provision is new and necessary. With thanksgiving, we can declare: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).
Finally, through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, we can walk freely in faithfulness. Rather than being weighed down by frantic perfectionism or anxiety over what we did or didn’t accomplish that day, faithfulness to Christ brings true freedom. For in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going about our days in step with him as he leads. Because our faithful obedience is rooted in his faithfulness to us, we can abide in the familiar with freedom.
Even in the land of familiarity, Christ is fully committed to our transformation, and by the power of his Spirit within us, we are being made like Christ, from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18)!