I read a quote today that I really believe sums up the feeling I have as I sort of stand in the hallway between two seasons.
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” – Andy Bernard
My husband and I have been feeling pulled at the last year or so that, for various reasons, the Lord is calling us to find a church community that more completely lines up with our convictions and focuses on the areas we believe that God has compelled us to grow in more fully. And doctrinal differences aside, this has caused me a fair share of grief. In short: I’m sad.
I’m sad to leave home. I’m sad to walk away from the people, the memories, and the place. There’s a familiarity there, a comfort. I was explaining it to a friend, and as strange as it sounds, I said, ‘I can walk into the building and lay down on the floor.’ Not that most people would want to do that, but that’s how comfortable I am there. I’ve spent almost 2-3 days of every week there and with people from that church for the last 3+ years of my life, which follow sporadic attendance over the last 7. I even married a man I met there. My best friends are there. I’ve been serving there for 2 years. I helped the team that spearheaded new ministries there. I was baptized there. I dedicated my daughter there. I found Jesus there.
We’ve been in prayer and we sought His Word, and we’ve received what feels like mountains of confirmation. I know we’ve been asked for a step of faith and it is in faith that we’re going to embark on this journey of searching for the place that God is leading us to (so if you were wondering, no, we have no idea where we will settle down next – we can’t see the next step).
And I can’t help but pause and think back to all of the Sunday’s I missed, the opportunities to attend events we decided not to go to, or the people we only waved to, taking for granted we’d see them again on Sunday. I think of the relationships I didn’t pursue for this reason or that. And that’s why the quote about the good old days really strikes a chord. Reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ at our now old church home, I wish I had known that is what they were. I might have appreciated them more.
But I do have to say, as solemnly as I write about it I know that our family and friends that we made there will not be forgotten. Just because we won’t see them on Sunday doesn’t mean we’re never going to see them again. In fact, we have plans with some tomorrow! And we are so blessed by the connections and relationships we have made with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in my 3 years, and for my husband, in his 15 years. It’s not as if we’ve lost everything, we’re still members of the same body of Christ, we’re all still children of the same God, and we’re all still family. We will just have to be a bit more intentional about maintaining those relationships because we no longer have Sundays and Wednesdays to fall back on.
All of that aside, I have to admit, I am so incredibly encouraged by the Lord and the fact that He placed this book of stories in my hand. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible. Just this morning, I felt this pull to read about Abram – which is Abraham before the HA was added (haha) – and I’m so blessed by it that I needed to share it. If you’re reading this and God is calling you to take a step out of your comfort zone, I pray that this blesses you like it’s done for me.
So many people look to the story of Peter stepping out of the boat onto the stormy waters in Matthew 14 as an illustration of blind faith and fixing our eyes on Jesus, and please don’t misunderstand, it certainly is. But Peter knew where he was going: out onto the water and in the direction of Jesus (literally, not figuratively). When I read about Abram, I was really humbled by this:
The LORD said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.’ (Genesis 12:1 NLT)
Abram was called away from home, from his comfort zone, from everything he knew and was called to a land that the Lord said He would show him. When I read that last part, it’s important to note, I think, that He says ‘that I will show you’ because it clues us into something not obviously seen: Abram didn’t know where he was going yet.
You may or may not know the story, but God promised Abram that He would make a great nation out of him and he would be the father of God’s people, which he did eventually become (even if it sounded ridiculous because he was 75 when he left home). But God promised Abram in Genesis 12 and made a covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 that these things He spoke of would happen. Abram wasn’t without struggle and doubt, however, and God reaffirms His covenant with Abram in Genesis 17 which is when he is renamed Abraham (v. 5). And Abraham becomes a father to Isaac, his son with his wife, Sarah, in Genesis 21. If you take the time to follow the genealogy, Abraham is a father to the entire nation of the people of God.
Later, the Apostle Paul would write of the faith Abraham had in this endeavor. Again, he was 75 when he was told he would be made a father of nations and he didn’t even have a legitimate son until he was 100. He waited (albeit, not always with patience and understanding) 25 years with faith that the Lord would fulfill His promise.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8 NLT)
Like Peter stepping out of the boat in Matthew, Abram left a place of safety when he went out from his home and all of the places he knew. He’d spent 75 years getting comfortable there and making a life for himself (which makes me feel really humbled in my 3 years spent at this church). But it was his faith in God’s sovereignty and God’s ability that he was obedient in the calling God had on his life to leave.
Paul goes on to explain in Hebrews 11 that even though Abraham inherited this land, he lived there as an alien, a guest on the land. It was never truly his and eventually he and Sarah died and their children inherited the same promise. And over time, the nation God promised Abraham did indeed grow into the nation of God’s people we are still to this day.
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not afraid to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11: 13-16 NLT)
The Word has offered me, personally, two things in the above verses. The first is that the inheritance that was promised to Abraham, along with the blessing he received because of his faithful following of the Lord’s call was passed down to his children. We have all inherited something because of Abraham’s obedience to God. Which leads me to the second thing I have gained from reading these scriptures during this time: the greater place they could see in the distance, the heavenly homeland – I have my doubts that this meant only Jerusalem or merely a holy city here on earth. The goal since the fall has been to reconcile the broken relationship between heaven and earth, God and His Creation. The inheritance that has been passed down generation to generation is that of a promise of heaven. Church home or no church home – this WORLD is not our home. Abraham did not pay the price for us to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven; that was on Christ’s shoulders on the cross. However, the plan that led to Christ began with this promise to Abraham and this can be proven by genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 (Adam – Abraham – Christ, with a few others in the middle of course).
I’m so encouraged by this model because, as a mother, the greatest thing I hope to leave behind for my children is the legacy that Christ has written me into by His grace. I can hope only to lead them to know Jesus, to know who they are in Him, and to follow Him in faith wherever it is that He may lead them. I pray with all my heart that this leap of faith will be one of the things that the Holy Spirit will cause her to recall someday when she wonders whether or not she should take a risk in the name of Jesus and follow Him into the unknown. I pray, too, that as we seek to grow, that she would grow and be transformed herself, from glory to glory, in the next community that God will plant us in.
How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned into strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. (Hebrews 11:32-34)
For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Romans 4:3 NLT)
Lord, as we step out in faith, I thank You. You have gone before us, God, and You have made a way. We are trusting in You, trusting in Your leading, Holy Spirit. Flood our lives, speak truth to us constantly. Write Your Word on our hearts. Have Your way in us and in our lives, Jesus. We lay them down before You, we submit ourselves to Your sovereign will. Your ways are higher than our ways, and Your ways are always good. We know you have led us here, God, and we follow You eagerly into the unknown. Please keep Your promises close to our hearts, lest we not easily forget that You are good and faithful Father. I pray this in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
*the title for this post is from this song, in case you were curious: