The End of an Era

Yesterday morning our last horse, Misty, died. My wife saw her laying down in the pasture, went out to investigate, and found she had died during the night. Misty had seemed perfectly normal the day before.

We’ve had horses since we moved into our house December 1991. We started with Ace and Joker (an Arabian and an Appaloosa), and then we bought Lady and Tigger (two wonderful ponies). Over time we gathered an assortment of strays who were put out to pasture in our back yard: King, Belle, Dakota, Shaq and others.

Misty was a gift to our daughter on her twelfth birthday. And now she was dead.

I don’t know why her death affected me as it did. I never connected with her. Mostly I fed her hay in the winter and held her halter when the blacksmith trimmed her hooves.

My wife interrupted me during my prayer time to say that Misty had died, and the first words out of my mouth were: “It’s the end of an era.”

We’re Looking for a Home

Six weeks ago, we accepted an offer on the house we’ve lived in for over twenty-five years. The house-inspection turned up twenty or so little repairs, and our attention has focused on fixing siding, replacing trim, and installing a few GFCI outlets. In five weeks, we move.

Misty’s death hit me, because I finally realized nothing held us here anymore—not even that horse I never bonded with.

In that moment, my heart finally said good-bye to the house we’ve loved, but no home has taken its place. We’ve searched Zillow, scoured Trulia, and followed up on every lead given by our real-estate agent.

We think we know the kind of house God has for us, one that will handle retreats (we’ve had many) and family times. But every address we look at seems gaudy, too expensive, too far, or impractical.

I feel restless, no longer home in our old house (even Misty is gone!), but I can’t picture where we’re going. It’s like we’re in limbo. In a few weeks, we will fly this coop, and I want to know—at least to picture in my mind—where we will come to roost.

Steadfastness

Moments after my wife told me Misty was gone (and with her, our home), I read this in James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, ESV)

I pictured “steadfastness” as a kind of stern, determined, inner strength to persist through difficulties. Sure enough, other translations used words with similar senses: perseverance (NIV), patience (KJV), and endurance (ISV).

But those translations miss the meaning of the Greek. The literal translation is best phrased, “hyper-abiding.” It’s not so dour as “steadfastness.” It’s more personal.

God uses trials “of various kinds” (even losing a horse I didn’t much care for) to create in me a “hyper-abiding” in him. It’s not a grim, teeth-gritting, independent, “determination” or “persistence.” It’s the joy of a deeply dependent life; he is nurturing His life in me until His life is all I want.

I’m looking for our next home. I think God is saying to me that he can’t trust me with the next home until my only home is him.

Augustine may have said it best, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Sam

To  nurture the life of God in us, and to develop a conversational relationship with God, and to find our home in him alone, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation.

After all, what did God save us for? To know him personally.

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What do YOU think?

34 thoughts on “The End of an Era

  1. Thank you so much Sam !!

    Such a Blessing and Encouragement to read !!!

    God Bless you as you continue to write and
    share and wait on Him for the new house that
    He has, for you.

  2. Great writing as always Sam! By the way, my wife is a real estate agent down here in Alabama–perhaps she could help? Ha! Hope you find a home soon. . .until then, hyper-abide!

  3. I’d not realized that the Greek word used in this context for “perseverance” had that particular nuance. Very insightful–and encouraging. Perseverance is a word that sounds like it’s all up to me; abiding is less lonely, more “me with God and God with me.” That’s so what I need.

    Re a new house, do you wish to remain in the Ann Arbor area, or are you open to moving elsewhere? Where have you looked? Have you considered the Saugatuck area or somewhere near Lake Michigan?

    • I hadn’t realized it either. I was trying to find what “steadfastness” meant, so I looked at the other translations. I finally looked up the Greek. The actual Greek word is hypo-meno; hypo (from which we get hyper) and meno (the same word in John 15:4, “abide in me and I in you”).

      Is that cool or what!

      And, like you said, hyper-abiding is less lonely, less up to me; it is God producing it in me.

      At the moment, we wish to remain in the Ann Arbor area. It’s where our friends and church friends are. But who knows? God may have us abide in places we don’t imagine.

      Sam

  4. Thank you for this insight, Sam. I believe the word the Lord gave you is also a word for me. It has really registered.
    The Lord has also given me Haggai as I have been looking for a place from time to time.
    Thanks!
    Linda

    • Isn’t it great how God speaks to us only to find out he is saying the same thing to our friends?

      The confirmation makes the words more powerful, and we can care for each other in the process.

      Thanks

  5. Hi Sam,
    I’ve read both of your books (and let you know how much I liked them!) and enjoy following your blog posts. This is not a criticism, just a quick editing note- I think you mean to fly the COOP. 🙂
    God bless~ isn’t it exciting to be waiting on Him for the next step?!
    Jill

    • Jill,

      THANK YOU! I just can’t edit my own writing. Another friend pointed out another spelling mistake.

      Although, maybe God is slowly, patiently, and lovingly overthrowing the self-control of my life, and I’m running from that “coup” (so may he succeed!).

      [And for those of you who don’t get what Jill is saying, I said “In a few weeks, we will fly this ‘coup'” when I meant to say “fly this ‘coop.'” It is now fixed. Thank you Jill.]

  6. meno. So rich, and I’ve been finding that it’s translated as other things all over the place; it’s like finding buried treasure when you find that word. But I hadn’t found that one in James yet, thank you! John 14:23… if anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. My father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him….” (home: mone, from meno….) may you be encouraged that as you hyper abide He is sojourning with you, has made his “home”with you, no matter where that earthly house is.
    As for me, this morning your words encouraged me to re-abide in a week of discouragement in relationship trials. Thank you. Every blessing on your house search, you have the “home” part nailed already!

  7. A second thought… isn’t it actually “hypomone” from “hypo” (under) not “hyper”…..? It’s just as beautiful and ends up with the same outcome…. but is it a call to “abide” while “under” the trial? As we go through (under) the trial and keep abiding, we are in fact hyper abiding, ( because it takes hyperabiding to keep abiding while under trial! ) and then become mature lacking nothing…
    I am completely not a Greek scholar, so am not criticizing, just trying to understand…
    what do you think?

    • I think it’s both. Greek uses many of these words in two senses. One is precision, but many of them are also various forms of intensifying the word. Just like in English we intensify a word by saying: super, hyper, really, very, deep, etc.

      Examples of this in Greek are “epi” in “epithumeo” (deep longing, lust), kata in katalambano (grab tightly, grap), and hyper and hypo.

      In Hebrew (and Semitic culture), emotional intensity was often expressed by doubling a word. So when David’s son is killed, we have, “Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son,” or Jesus to Paul, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me,” or in Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people.”

      My favorite “intensification” is found at the beginning of the Last Supper when Jesus says, ““I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). The Greek for “earnestly desired” is “epithumeo epithumeo.”

      So Jesus uses Hebrew and Greek intensification: doubling the word (Hebrew) and both times prefixing “epi” (Greek).

      Which says much about his love for us.

  8. Sam, this gave me so much food for thought. Our beloved Lord and Savior mercifully takes us ever toward “the joy of a deeply dependent life; he is nurturing His life in me until His life is all I want.” Across our 41 years, how many times did I say to my recently deceased husband, “You are home for me; where ever you are… when I am there too, beside you, I am home.” We spent much of life apart with him away on business or involved in over night engineering projects. If he was working, I was too. Often times rest and relaxation came naturally only when I was finally with him.
    Such a beautiful mystery that Jesus himself is my husband now.
    My only home is him.
    I know that He knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect. He is always going for something deeper and richer than we can see, although we may see dimly at times, it’s best to simply keep our eyes on Him, knowing that He’s got this.

    • Candace,

      I love your line, “He is always going for something deeper and richer than we can see, although we may see dimly at times, it’s best to simply keep our eyes on Him, knowing that He’s got this.”

      Maybe he doesn’t always let us see, simply for our own hearts; that we “abide” in him rather than in the solution.

      Thanks,

      Sam

  9. I love this. I shared it with a friend who is essentially homeless – also looking for and waiting for a home. She is “hyper-abiding” and I have certainly “hyper-abided” many times, too. I love what I envision with that word, like I’m pressing in up under the wings of God, pushing myself face first right into the feathers there. We had horses and I’d long since moved away when my mom called to tell me that my horse had finally died. It was like my childhood ended then in a way. God gives such amazing gifts in creation and when we’re in need. Thanks for the beautiful post, Sam.

    • Hi Robin,

      Thanks for your encouragement, to me, to all of us readers, and especially for your “essentially homeless” friend.

      Losses ARE hard. The same day I read the “steadfastness” passage in James I was reminded of a passage in Hebrew: “At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”

      God is shaking until what cannot be shaken remains (abides) in us.

  10. Thanks for the simple story that invites us to recall that our Father’s house is our only true home. I say that in the process (the stress) of a move.

    • Beautiful poem. Here it is:

      Such natural love twixt beast and man we find
      That children all desire an animal book,
      And all brutes, not perverted from their kind,
      Woo us with whinny, tongue, tail, song, or look;
      So much of Eden’s courtesy yet remains.
      But when a creature’s dread, or mine, has built
      A wall between, I think I feel the pains
      That Adam earned and do confess my guilt.
      For till I tame sly fox and timorous hare
      And lording lion in my self, no peace
      Can be without; but after, I shall dare
      Uncage the shadowy zoo and war will cease;
      Because the brutes within, I do not doubt,
      Are archetypal of the brutes without.

      C.S. Lewis
      Poems

      I love the personal honesty, “till I tame …in my self…”

      Ouch.

  11. Sam, enjoyed “talking” with the horses a while back. An old hymn came to my mind as I read this. “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through”. Thanks for your writings.

  12. Beautiful writing Sam — it made me think of the home that I have so far only seen/felt/remembered glimpses from…it is a beautul place, a place that is still hidden under the glorious ruins of our world…and it is coming soon. Until then, as you said, we will only belong here in part, and there will be something missing.
    I think it was Augustine who said that the whole life of the good Christian is a ‘holy longing’, and even though I know this to be true, how hard is it to long for so long?!?
    Thus, another piece of cake, another drink, another visit to the beach…
    We want paradise now, yet paradise is coming to us…but not yet.
    Keep abiding Sam — a great good is coming to us!
    Best,
    George S.

  13. Oh, you know you CAN trust him in his time. You see, Sam, I can relate to this. My wife and I knew we were to move and we looked for a year up and down the OR and WA coast. We knew God wanted us to open a Writing Center, so we knew we need to buy a larger place. Problem one was we were renting and as each month went by our savings (and the amount we had to spend on a house) was dwindling. And yet every house we looked at was either out of our price-range, too small, too beat up and run down or the door closed on it (bought out from under us just before we could make an offer or something like that). We were discouraged. The word came to me that God was like Gandalf who said, “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” [more…]

  14. Finally, one house did “presented itself” and for months remained on the market, only we didn’t want to go there. It was in a rainy part of the PNW, there was a higher crime and drug rate, and the town was economically depressed. But that state of economy meant low housing costs and we were able to buy nearly 4K fet for $80K. The “1917 house was nearly a 100 years old and had for the last 30+ years been used as a church. The church was motivated to sell and accepted our offer. Sure, it needed some TLC and elbow grease, but after three months of work we opened our writing center. Now a year later we are also opening a bookstore. We are active in the community and making a difference. [more…]

  15. On a visit to our home town we visited a new church where some of our former pastors were now serving. One asked what we were up to and why he hadn’t seen us. And I told him where we’d moved. He said, “Why would you move there?” (The place has a rep.) I told him that the Lord had led and that we wanted to make a difference there. He said, “Leave it to a pastor to look at the down side.”

    Anyway, we are quite happy with the Lord’s leading. BTW: My sister had a similar situation just this month. They accepted an offer on there house just a month after listing it and had nowhere to go–no housing prospect in sight (couldn’t find what they were looking for), but she was trusting God. Yes, they moved into their camper and parked it at her mother-in-law’s house, but that week they found a house they liked, made an offer that was accepted within their means, and called for a 15 day closure. They got it. Moved in this week and love the place. It really is perfect.

  16. Sam I’am enjoying your book Hearing God in Conversation. My brother-in-law John Hard sent it last month and each chapter is filled with good information particularly chapter 5!! I really like your Rosetta Stone analogy pertaining to scriptural mediation.
    I attempted to order you Scriptural Mediation Plan a few weeks ago and don’t recall receiving it.
    I just reordered it and look forward to having it as a guideline for our family weekly Bible study.
    Thanking you in advance!
    Dean McBride