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The Lord is My Portion

Our summer travels have taken us back to Vancouver Island where we have spent the last three days reconnecting with dear friends and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the west coast. Our first few days have been full. We were barely off the ferry and we were off to a lovely wedding celebration. Then, yesterday we had the opportunity to worship with the church we called home for three years. It has been good to be back.

Of course, revisiting significant places in one’s life always comes with a bit of nostalgia and reflection. As human beings, we are profoundly shaped by the places and the people who come into our lives, and this is certainly been evident in these first few days back on the Island. So many familiar places and faces, sights and smells, so many memories and experiences. So many tokens of how this place has shaped my own life and the life of our family.

Yesterday, I preached from on the theme of God’s faithfulness from Lamentations 3:21-26. In particular, I reflected on the phrase “The Lord is my portion” from 3:24. A “portion,” in the world of ancient Israel, referred to a piece of land, a tribal inheritance. It signified security, stability, a place to put your feet and call your own. To have a “portion” was to have a measure of “settledness.” It was, at its best, a place that was reliable and sure that gave you a deep sense of identity and belonging.

In many ways, this is the antithesis of postmodern experience. We drift and we wander, moving from place to place (literally or metaphorically) accumulating experiences and relationships, but often having little sense that there is firm ground beneath—little sense that we have a “portion” to call our own. The question is the same for us as it was to the first hearers of the book of Lamentations—people grieving the destruction of their city and their temple: “What is our portion?” “In what or in whom do we hope?” Is our core identity tied to places and people or to the God who created us and who loves us wherever the road takes us? Can we, with the writer of Lamentations, say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in him?”

We cannot go where God is not. This is a deep truth, and a source of great peace and hope. There is no place we can pitch our tents that God cannot use to shape and mold us. There is no combination of people and place that cannot simultaneously be embraced as a blessing and a gift, even while we continue to learn and live into the truth that our only sure portion is God himself. A few years ago I wrote these words after a visit back to Alberta, and they ring as true and hopeful today as they did back then, even if we are traveling in the opposite direction these days:

Home is where the heart is, I suppose, and maybe all that means is that “home” looks and feels different at various points on each of our journeys. The communities we are born into often shape who we are in profound and formative ways, but everywhere we go leaves its mark on us. We will likely have many homes and, if we are fortunate, the best features of each place we have pitched our tents will blur together into a good and life-giving whole.

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