The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
— John 1:14 (NIV)
For me the word “dwell” brings to mind the act of intentional lingering: to dwell is to stay a while, to take one’s time in a place.
Let me tell you about the place where my family and I dwell.
We live in the same budget friendly, two-bedroom apartment that Steven and I moved into the summer we got married. Six years later, our place is still filled with the things we carried as grad students — the garage-sale furniture and the boxes upon boxes of books. The room that first functioned as our office and library now belongs to our three-year-old son, who sleeps where I once sat at my desk revising chapters on George Eliot and John Henry Newman. (These days, my desk is wedged into a corner of our bedroom; every night, I swivel the office chair sideways to climb into my side of the bed.)
As our living situation suggests, I never intended to stay long in this place, so far from family and what I consider home. This apartment, my church, Indiana: all of it was supposed to be temporary. But what began as "just long enough to finish the coursework portion of grad school" turned into marriage and a PhD, followed by pregnancy and "it would be easier to have the baby here, where at least one of us has a job with healthcare." Which turned into the blur of raising a young child — and then the pandemic and, with it, a nationwide hiring freeze.
And yet, during all these years of purposeful not-dwelling, this temporary home of ours has been made holy — not by our restless way of inhabiting it, but by the indwelling presence of one who has always accompanied wanderers in exile and inhabited their impermanent structures. While we wait with vague hopes for a home of our own near one of our families, it is our temporary pastor at our temporary church who sits with us through premarital counseling. Before he retires, he will baptize our son. On my fortieth birthday, in the dead of a pandemic winter when travel home is impossible, the two friends I met here as a lonely new mom bring me coffee and donuts, and we sit in a vacant retail space at the mall, where we sip and eat, watching our boys play hide-and-seek in the dressing rooms. Later, in the spring, Steven and I help Charlie plant tomatoes in a rented garden plot. We gather the seemingly endless bounty all summer long, eating them straight off the vine.
The very name of Christ is dwelling: God with us. Emmanuel is born in the dead of winter, far from home, in Bethlehem. In Indiana, in our rented plot of dirt, in the places where our son plays, even in our cramped apartment — in each of these places, the Word has been made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.
Photo by Kelly Ishmael on StockSnap.