For our whole adult lives, my husband and I have been nomads. We have lived in a dozen plus cities and towns, sometimes for a year, once for sixteen years. I often complain that I am rootless and homeless–at least in the Southern sense of having a strong sense of local place and people. “Our people” are spread all around the country and even in other countries. For Valentine’s Day, I decided to draw hearts for each of the people and friends I have loved and who have maybe even loved me. As I was drawing the hearts, I didn’t know where to stop. Every new name prompted another name and another heart.
The first two verses of Hebrews 12 came to mind: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (NIV) I feel truly surrounded, carried, upheld, defended, nudged, and sometimes chastised and pushed by a great cloud of witnesses. Many of those people are Christians but not all and yet all feel a part of the great parade of people holding me in God’s love.
I looked back at Hebrews 11 and noticed all the phrases that started with “By faith.” “By faith Abel, by faith Enoch, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham, by faith Sarah, by faith Jacob, by faith Joseph, ….” The list is long of those who followed God and lived their lives “by faith.” When I am feeling homeless and rootless and sometimes faithless, it helps for me to recall this ancient cloud of witnesses in Hebrews and to be grateful for the present cloud of witnesses and friends (both alive and deceased) who sweep me in and carry me along by faith.