Did a song start playing in the back of your mind when you read that? Is the title juuuust out of reach? Is it going to bother you for the rest of this post- and probably all day- if you can’t remember the name of the song?
If you’re like me? Probably.
So make your guesses, because if you keep reading like you are right now you will know that I’ve titled this after a lyric from the song “Arabian Nights” that is the first thing you hear if you’ve ever watched Aladdin.
The opening songs of many Disney movies are among my favourites from my childhood. So many of them have a story-telling quality to them and the lyrics are artfully put together to draw in young and old alike. On my last trip down Disney memory lane this one came up, and hearing the lyric, “it’s barbaric, but hey- it’s home!” made me laugh- and got me thinking.
Where is home? Is home a place? A person? A moment in time?
What is home? Loving? Cold? Full? Empty? Peaceful?
Humans have proven to be incredibly adaptable. In the song “Arabian Nights”, this lyric comes about while the singer is remarking on how harsh the climate is like where he lives: immense dry deserts, merciless heat and endless waves of sand.
People still inhabit deserts today. You’ll find us almost anywhere, really- on tundra, on islands, in jungles, along fault lines, in tornado alley and even above the Arctic Circle! In Ontario, our climate is fairly tame by comparison. Still, within the year temperatures can rise and fall 30-40 degrees above or below the freezing point- it’s quite a range we experience.
Humans have a knack for making the seemingly uninhabitable habitable. We learn to work with or around the less “home-y” things about where we’re at. We keep cool snacks around to battle the heat. We make snow tires and winter boots to keep mobile in winter. We make do really well- sometimes too well.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of getting by in every aspect of life. We might make do with an empty apartment. We might “learn to cope” in a violent home or relationship. We might settle into careers we don’t feel called to. In short- we settle for less.
The Israelites did this constantly in the Old Testament. For generations they cried out for deliverance from Egypt. Initially, the house of Israel settled in Egypt to weather famine. God used Israel’s son, Joseph to warn the Egyptians of the coming famine so that they stored enough food during the years of plenty to see it through. But as generations passed and the Israelites thrived, Egypt began to see a foe in a friend and oppressed the Israelites. They were made to live as slaves and forward the visions of Pharaoh’s heart.
The Israelites cried out for deliverance and God raised up Moses to lead them out of captivity. God plagued the Egyptians until His people were let go. From there, the mass exodus began as the Israelites left the barbaric land of their oppression for their promised land, a land the Bible repeatedly refers to as one “flowing with milk and honey”.
But if you know the story, you know that Caleb and Joshua are the only adult Israelites of those that left Egypt that set foot on the promised land. The rest are kept from the promise by their fear and disobedience. They didn’t know the ins and outs of the promised land.
But they knew Egypt. They knew how to apply salves to their wounds after a beating and the easiest way to lift a heavy load without causing further damage. They knew the best places in line to hide from their overseers. They knew which ones were kind and which ones strut around with hungry whips. They knew how to get a little extra food without anyone knowing. One woman knew how to hide her son when Egyptians came to kill every baby boy in Israel. They knew how to be slaves. Slavery was familiar. Freedom was not.
One constant in what we all consider home is that it’s familiar. It may not be good, it may not be healthy, it may not even be safe, but is known to you. Fear of the unknown can keep us chained long after we’ve been set free.
Read the story of the Israelites and you’ll see them reminiscing about the barbaric land they prayed and pleaded to be delivered from. At least they had food that was not manna, they’d say. At least they were not thirsty. At least they knew to how navigate the harsh life that they’d grown comfortable in.
That generation of Israel let their fear of the unknown trap them in the oppression that God had fought to free them from. A free people moved through the wilderness enslaved by their past in their minds and their hearts.
It’s so easy to want more and want better when you’re in a dark place. No doubt on the days when the slave masters had been especially abusive many must have huddled in their huts and dreamed of what life could be like if only God would deliver them. But dreaming of the promise and walking in the promise can be two very different things. One takes words. The other takes action.
Barbaric times, barbaric seasons, barbaric homes- they all are very real. But should you find yourself in the midst of the dark, don’t settle in. Don’t let your eyes adjust to the dark so much that you lose your desire for the light. There’s a song I found recently called “Healing” where the songwriter remarks that she “got so used to the dark, [she] was scared of what the light would do now”. The Light heals. The Light grows. But if we get too used to our broken pieces, we can learn to fear the God who can make us as though we were unbroken.
Our home isn’t in the darkness. Our broken pieces don’t have to be where we find our identity. Jesus reminds us in John 10:10 that He has “come that [we] might have life, and that [we] might have it more abundantly,” (KJV). He gave His life so that abundance and eternal life would be in our grasp. His will is that we walk in His marvelous light, not grow comfortable in our darkest place.
God’s promises are for us, in this life, and the next.
Remember, settling isn’t in God’s plan for you. Coping isn’t His will for you.
May you continue to experience extraordinary in Him!