Our family has been celebrating Sukkot*, and other biblical fast and feast days, since my oldest was 3. That makes this year the 17th year that we have celebrated this feast. When I remembered this morning that Sukkot was about start, I did not feel the joy and excitement of my younger children, who ask me all year, “When is Sukkot?”
The first thing I thought about was the discomfort of eating and sleeping outside in a booth. “I don’t want to be uncomfortable.” I thought to myself.
A moment after that I realized, “That’s the point. That’s the whole point of Sukkot. It’s not supposed to be comfortable. It’s supposed to be happy and joyful. But it’s not meant to be comfortable.”
Every so often something will happen that reminds me that our home is not actually ours. We have lived here a long time, but we are just tenants. Our landlord is the one who has the final authority. This week he cut down trees, most of which needed trimming, but some seemed to be trimmed too harshly. I loved those trees, for their beauty, for the shade they gave, and the way my children climbed in them, tied nets across the branches to lay in them, and swung on tire swings from the bottom branches. When they came down, I cried.
Underneath the immediate sadness about the trees, which will grow back, but maybe not before my older children stop wanting to play in them, is the way it reminds me that we don’t own this house that we live in. I have never owned a house. Every place I have ever lived as an adult has been a temporary shelter. As comfortable as I try to make it, I know I won’t be able to stay there forever. There is no point in investing heavily in improvements to a house that isn’t mine, that I won’t get to enjoy long term. There is little point in planting trees, at least, not for my benefit.
I have in my heart a deep longing for a permanent home, a place to call my own, a place that I can settle in, invest in, and plant flowers and fruit trees that I can expect to sit under later in life.
Every time I get deeply sad about this, I have to remember that this world is not my permanent home. I am not meant to settle here or get too comfortable. This is all a temporary shelter, and I’m just passing through. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” Heb. 13:14
Getting comfortable makes it so easy for me to forget what is important, what is eternal. I would love to own a home someday and be able to claim a space that is mine. Maybe someday I’ll get to, but I know that if that happens I’ll have to be careful that it doesn’t take up real estate in my heart that is meant for other, more lasting, better things. I hope it won’t make me complacent.
Israel also longed for a homeland, a permanent home, a place where they each could “sit under his own grapevine, or under his own fig tree without any fear.” Micah 4:4 But God knew that once they got there, and got comfortable, they were also in danger of becoming fat, lazy, proud, and turning to evil, forgetting that they were only there because of God’s mercy and compassion on them. So, when He brought them into the land he promised, he gave them Sukkot, and the other feasts, to remember what it took to get there to their settled place of comfort now. Sukkot was to remember the journey he led them on through the in between places.
So, here’s to getting outside of our comfort zone, to taking the long journey toward being the free people Israel learned to become in the wilderness.
More on that in Part 2 – On being in the in between place. Happy Sukkot.