“From the Hart” Devotional for March 21, 2024

“Coming Home”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:11-12
[This is the scripture that the Hardy family highlighted in Lewie’s boot camp Bible.]

Six years! It has been six long years since my oldest son looked back one last time waving ‘goodbye’ as he headed off to boot camp. I don’t know who was more anxious in that moment, him or me. He had chosen, planned for, and prepared for this day but it was never more real than the moment this picture was taken. As soon as he walked through that door, there was no looking back. Whatever was to come, he had made a commitment to the United States Navy to go wherever they told him to go for the next six years — starting with boot camp!

You pack light when you head off to boot camp because everything that you take with you will be taken from you as soon as you arrive. Everything but his pocket Bible would be put in a box and shipped home. The only piece of home he had to hold onto was that little book of scriptures highlighted and signed by friends and family before his farewell.

As it turns out, that was all that he needed.

Lewie returned home from the Navy this past weekend. He survived bootcamp, schoolhouses, life on base, and life out at sea. He had done what he left home to do and now he was finally coming home. Of course, he returned home with a lot more than the pocket Bible that he had left home with! He’s been busy this week trying to unpack and find places for all that he has accumulated since he left home: uniforms, books, clothes. But much more than the “stuff” that he returned home with are the experiences that he has had: the people, the places, the deployments, the disappointments, the adventures, the accomplishments. These things are all a part of who he is now. And who he is now is different than who he was when he left home six years ago.

While my sailor has returned to the same home that he grew up in, it’s different. Since he left this home, his brother graduated from high school, joined the military, and got married; his dog died; one grandpa moved out; another grandpa died; three new babies were born into the family. He came home to the same house, but to a different home. He is finding out that things are not the way they were when he left. Everything had changed! Everything that is except the one thing that he took with him when he left — his pocket Bible. The words in the book have not changed. And those words got him through the airplane ride to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, the schoolhouse in Dam Neck, Virginia, the drills and inspections at his base on Coronado Island, and his deployment in the South China Sea.

God’s word never changes. It just grows with us and within us. Wherever we live and wherever we go, we always find ourselves at home in God’s word.

With that I have some questions for you to ponder:

Lewie joined the Navy to serve his country and sail the seven seas, but he ended up sailing three seas and one ocean. When is a time that your reality didn’t exactly match the vision you had? Were you disappointed? Did you still find blessings in what came to be?

In Jeremiah 29:11, we read about God’ plans for our lives. Do you take comfort in knowing that God has a plan for blessing your life?

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start when reading the Bible. For Lewie, those of us who loved him marked scriptures that we have found comfort in at challenging times in our lives. Which scriptures are highlighted in your Bible? Which scriptures have you shared with others during difficult times?

Coming home isn’t always about returning to our childhood homes. Coming home can be returning to a place, a person, a family, a dream, a calling. When is a time that you returned home after a long time of being away? How did it feel to be back home?

Thank you, God, for the plans that you have for my life. I know that whatever road (or ocean) your plans may have me travel, you promise to be with me. Let me come home to your word each day and carry your scriptures in my heart.