You know those years that become lifetime markers? Where your story becomes divided into before and after? 2002 was that year for me.
Amongst a whole lot of changes, challenges and growth it was also a year of great loss. I miscarried a much longed for baby and then my marriage of 8 years ended.
As dramatic as it sounds, it really felt like I was “done”. My greatest hopes for my future – to be a wife and mother – were dashed. I’m 28 years old and I’m done. And, as if my own fears and doubts weren’t screaming loudly enough, others gave voice to judgement and condemnation. “Divorced people can’t serve in the church.”
Through a dear friend, God illuminated Isaiah 54 to my heart and rarely has a portion of scripture ever spoken so directly and powerfully to my very core.
It’s long. And there are many layers to the significance of all 17 verses and the context of the scripture in the greater biblical narrative. But let me highlight just a few (reading from The Message translation).
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” v1
“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.” v6
So incredibly affirming and embracing. He sees. He knows. He holds.
Amidst all of the upheaval I was processing two big decisions – an apparent call into generations ministry and what to do with the large family home of which I was now in sole possession.
“More are the children of the barren woman…” at that time there were at least 30 who would come under my ministry umbrella! And God in His grace called me to nurture an ever growing gaggle of children and families that shaped a culture and focus for ministry in the context He placed me. Also moulding a lifelong ministry message and opening my heart and arms to some incredibly special little ones He has gifted to my life over the years since.
But, to the main point of this reflection – the Tent.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” v2
At a time when it felt like my world and my dreams had been completely shrunk, God’s word to me was one of expansiveness and big picture dreaming. Spread out!!! Think big!! So, as I looked at this big 4.5 bedroom home – purchased with the dream of hosting a growing family but now just a home for one – God was shaping a vision for a different type of filling and a redirecting of my mother-heart to a different kind of loving.
Thus The Tent.
Make room. Make room for ministry, for meeting spaces, for parties, for storage; for a community trailer. Make room for guests, for those in need of emergency accommodation, for the convalescing, the international traveler, for the visitor and those needing a place to call home. Make room for dinner parties for 16 and takeaway on the couch for two. Make room for dreaming and writing, preparing and creating; for baking and making. Make room to embrace and to launch. Make room for tears, for doubts, for reflection, for grieving, for searching; for prayers. Make room for great joy and loud, loud laughter. Make room for deep learning, for growth, for failure and recovery. Make room for singing and dancing and trampoline jumping. Make room for babies and children, for youth and their leaders, for mentors and friendships, for family and colleagues. Make room for memories and moments.
Stretch your tent curtains wide. Don’t hold back.
A vision for a physical location, but more importantly a mandate for a way to live. Make room. A desire for an ever-enlarging heart. For ongoing and greater generosity. For continuing openness even when wounding or grief would seek to close me down. For hospitality in its truest definition – welcome, inclusion, comfort and connection.
And now the Tent has relocated. But the physical aspect has only ever been one part. So even though this iteration is smaller (for now) the prophetic vision over it is still as large. The door is open, the kettle at the ready, the guest beds are made, everything is to be shared and my heart’s desire is to always be a place of welcome for all who would come.
The full text of Isaiah 54 (The Message translation) can be found here