A chapter of my life closed out slowly over the past six months. And a new one began yesterday.
I didn’t expect it. I figured the Fall of 2016 would be like many before – settling into the routine of work and students back on campus and waiting not-so-patiently for the tropical temperatures to dip just a little. I went on one of my retreats with God at the end of July, seeking His will for the coming days, talking with Him about what I thought my Big Fall Issues would be. Little did I know that just a few days later, my world would feel the unsettling tremors of an issue I hadn’t seen coming. Things that had always provided familiarity and security were about to change.
I learned that things weren’t going well at my church, the place I’ve called home for the last 9 years, the people who had become my family when my own was so many miles away. Within a few weeks, my pastor and friend had resigned and I started to feel waves of anxiety begin to well up deep inside. Satan tried to slip in with his taunts about how unfair life is, how I should be facing this Big Deal with a husband instead of working it out on my own.
I wanted to run ahead and see around the corner, to see what would happen and where I’d end up. Sometimes I wanted someone else to make the decisions for me and not have to rely on my own flawed wisdom that so frequently got clouded over with emotion and questions and fear.
It was a process. This chapter had some twists and turns, hard conversations with God and with others, some wrestling and much seeking. But between the first line and the last one of this particular part of my story, there was an undeniably strong undercurrent of certainty – that Jesus was and continues to be the Author and Finisher of my faith. This didn’t catch Him by surprise. While I was spending time with Him in that hotel room in late July, wanting to make sure we were on the same page, He knew what was coming. He knew that I’d go back to the journal notes I wrote that night and would come to the realization that He was indeed preparing my heart.
He could have made it clear that I was to stay and be a part of a new chapter at my church, and I was ready to accept that, knowing that He could still use me and bless me there. But instead, He released me. I use that term because I don’t think it would have been wrong for me to stay. He has called others to stay and work through the coming challenges and transitions. And I know that through their obedience, He will bless them. Releasing me opened the door to see where He might lead next. And He has led me to a sister church a half mile from my front door… five minutes away…a church I’ve driven past every Sunday morning for years, always wondering why God hadn’t placed me there instead. But I knew that driving another 12 miles and another 20 minutes was His will for that particular period of my life. I smile when I think about His timing. His perfect timing. I’m now in a church in my home town, one where I hope the proximity will open doors to more involvement and ministry opportunities and who knows what else.
And so yesterday morning I was officially received as a new member. It felt momentous and important. I don’t know what story the next chapter will tell. I’m so grateful for the last one, with the blessings and the challenges and the people that made me grow. I’m grateful that I know God is still working in the lives of those who stayed as well. I’m grateful that God has reminded me that He is always in control, that His ways are never random, never a waste of time. He always has a plan. For us. For His church.
And for me.
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Revelation 1:8
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me. Psalm 138:8