A Word on the Title

During my sophomore year at Middlebury, I learned a simple song one Sunday night.  Sitting on the comfy armchairs in Carr Hall, my friends and I sang over and over:

There’s no place I’d rather be
There’s no place I’d rather be
There’s no place I’d rather be
Than here in Your love
Here in Your love

The next year, I left Middlebury on my long-awaited study abroad adventure.  I met amazing people, learned a lot, had adventures, etc.  Then, before I could even turn around to look backward, the year was over.  I left Israel, spent a beautiful summer in the Dominican Republic, and then came back for one final year at Middlebury.  Throughout this crazy year and a half, the song lyrics above meant a lot to me.  No matter where I was and no matter how incredible the experience, I was always tempted away from satisfaction by sneaking tendrils of nostalgia; there was always somewhere, someone, something to be missing.  While in Israel, I often missed the comfort and familiarity of home.  While in the Dominican, I was in kind of a shocked stupor over the fact that my year in Israel was over.  When the coolness of autumn brought me back to the daily grind of senior year classes at Middlebury, I longed for the months when each day brought a new, warm, exotic adventure.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy; I enjoyed myself tremendously in each of those places and times.  But there was also the base instinct to long for something else.  So I sang this song to myself and to God over and over again.  It reminded me that, no matter how many other places I may want to be, no matter how many things I was missing and longing for, I could still be happy and satisfied because I was resting in God’s love.  His love made every place a resting place; His plan for me made every moment one of simultaneous comfort and warmth and adventure and purpose.  I could ignore the little longings that nibbled at my happiness.  Because I was covered in God’s love, it didn’t matter where I was and where I wasn’t.

Another year passed, and I found myself preparing to depart again.  To Israel again.  On an entirely different adventure.  As I began to get ready to move to Nazareth for seven months to intern with the Jesus Trail, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how much I’d loved the past twelve months in the US.  Having spent time in the “Holy Land” as a Christian, many friends and family members asked me if I felt closer to Jesus by standing in the same places He’d stood, if I felt holier or more connected to God by being in Israel.  I usually tell them that I’ve come to believe that no country is necessarily more sacred than another; because Jesus walks with us wherever we go and blesses us by filling us with His presence, holiness is not about place.  Yet…as I found myself driving through southern Vermont one last time, a week before my departure for Israel, heading home after a final visit to my friends who were starting a new year there, I found myself thinking of Middlebury and its surroundings as sacred ground.  It was a place where I had been so incredibly blessed; I’d found friends who loved me and encouraged me and showed me how to know and seek Jesus in a real and beautiful way.  I’d found a community of people who cared for each other and for those around them relentlessly and selflessly.  I’d found out what it meant to see God moving and answering prayers and showing Himself in crazy ways.  And as I crossed the Vermont border for the last time in a long time, I found myself moved to (more than a few) tears as I thought about all that my time in that space had meant to me and told God how grateful I was for that period in my life.

Then, a few days later, as I packed my final bags and said goodbye to my bedroom and my home and my town, I again found myself thinking of this memory-rich space as sacred.  Here I’d spent beautiful and simple hours with people who know me and love me so well… with cousins and relatives who always make time to stay in touch and to really know me, regardless of time and distance.  With siblings who understand everything about me and are the best friends anyone could ever know.  With parents who are one hundred percent selfless and completely devoted to loving me and caring for me and supporting me.  Again – how could this kind of space not feel a little bit sacred?  And, in looking back on the memories that make it feel so special, how could I not be humbled and overcome with gratitude?

So, as I boarded my eleven hour, transatlantic flight and watched the eastern seaboard fall away from under me, I once again found the song running through my head: “There’s no place I’d rather be…”  But I discovered that, over the last few days, I’d begun to reevaluate the meaning of the song.  Or to add another layer of understanding to its meaning beyond that which it had acquired during my year of study abroad.  Yes, resting in God’s love for me does mean that I don’t have to dwell on the places I might rather be.  But, in my experience so far, it also means that I can trust fully that each place, each period of time in my life will be beautiful and full of meaning in itself because of God’s incredible, limitless love.  His love isn’t just a place to escape to when I’m longing to be somewhere else; rather, it continually defines the place I am now and, without fail, blesses me in that place and allows me to grow and learn and love and be loved beyond my imagination while I’m there.  I have seen so much of God’s goodness to me in so many different places over the last few years; and I know that there’s no place I’d rather be than anywhere that He, in His love, takes me.  I am so excited for my next adventure; I’m so excited to see in what ways God’s love will show itself to me in this new place.  Right now, there’s no place I’d rather be than Nazareth.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Word on the Title

  1. Victoria

    yay hannah!! so happy for you. such a blessing to read your insight on the multiple layers of this seemingly simple song. praise God!!

  2. Edna

    Loved reading your thoughts so much, Hannah! I was just listening to that song a few days ago, and I’d never thought of its lyrics that way before. Sometimes, remembering a wonderful place I’ve been (like Midd or studying in China) or thinking of places/experiences I’d like to have, I start wishing I was somewhere else and forget to be present where I am. But you said it beautifully. Each place is beautiful because of God’s love…so in a way, when we’re with Him, we can’t go wrong 🙂

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