The front room is now a grayish color and the dining room looks like a latte. There are crafted things hanging on the walls and thrifted lamps lighting the corners. We have too many pillows, but they are all too wonderful and quirky to store away somewhere. The furniture is nearly all free or craigslisted or thrifted or clearanced. There's a bronze candlestick holder that our great Aunt used as a doorstop (and could easily double as a defense weapon) that sits on a trunk-turned-sidetable. My sister mainly brings the inspiration for the decorating of our house and I make sure we're stocked with cleaning supplies. We're a funny team - living together for the first time since she left for college in 2001. After about one month, we've snuggled in to our new home. Well, our landlord tells us it was built in 1887, so it hasn't been new in a very long time, but we are shrugging into it like you would a good, worn-in pair of shoes.
And it feels good.
This city has life and we're pretty close to the downtown heartbeat. If you're used to the suburbs, our neighborhood would definitely earn the title "sketch" (especially if you stop by at night). But, if you're inner-city familiar, then you would know our street is pretty quiet by comparison.
In any case, someone said we should get a deadbolt. Our front door is about 50 feet from the sidewalk and the doorknob locks like a bedroom. My sister and I aren't worried about it, but enough people are that we mentioned it to our landlord.
Protection is something people get a little bit desperate about, a lot of fearful about. We want walls - tall ones - between us and danger. We want schools far away from any threat. We want bad people to stay away from good people. We want there to be some sort of buffer - a moat, perhaps, to keep safe away from unsafe.
I don't have children, biological ones, anyway. But I am a child and I saw the tension in my parents' eyes when I said I was going to Honduras. I heard their voices waver even while they said they were trusting the Lord. I could see their raised eyebrows in my rearview mirror as I drove them around Tegucigalpa. "Where's that moat?" They seemed to ask. When we moved to this part of Des Moines, my dad raised those same eyebrows.
This morning, I read from Zechariah in my devotions,
and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”(Zechariah 2:4-5 ESV)
The prophet said Jerusalem would grow out of her walls. She would increase in number so that the walls could no longer hold her. John Piper writes,
But walls are necessary! They are the security against lawless hordes and enemy armies. Villages are fragile, weak, vulnerable. Prosperity is nice, but what about protection?
To these questions, God lays out His promise, "I will be a wall of fire all around." In the end, walls are still manmade and can be scaled and stormed by men. But a wall of fire - a divine wall of fire - is a force of protection that cannot be reckoned with. As the city expanded beyond its manmade protection into a weak and vulnerable state, God makes a promise to hover over the weak and vulnerable to offer miraculous preservation.
Piper continues to work through the passage,
And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, "And I will be the glory in her midst." God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.
I had to read this on replay this morning. God said, "I will be the glory in her midst." God is not a cold, stone wall. He is not an inch thick defense plan. God is alive and God loves His people. The fire protects them in the most vulnerable and exposed situations and His presence comforts and pleases like nothing in this world.
Today, God is expanding His kingdom out into vulnerable, exposed, unguarded territory. We are not to fear.
Our Holy God is the best, surest protection and the most pleasing company.