Tonight, John and I made a huge change in our lives.
We sat at a table with about 15 co-laborers from our church. People that we've "done" life with, the good, the bad, and the ugly. People who have loved us and whom we have loved, John's fellow elders and our pastors.. We sat and looked them in the eye and told them we were leaving the church. And it was hard. Very hard.
The call began a few years ago. The gentle whisper that maybe we had gotten stale? Maybe we had gotten lackadaisical? But we closed our ears and tried to assure ourselves that we were still vibrant. We still had ministries to accomplish and lots and lots of friends. We both felt it and we both resisted it.
The years went on and our ministries began to change. The reason I gave for not wanting to move on, was changed, and I wasn't needed. We thought, we'll just look and see what's out there. We looked and looked. Everywhere we went, there was something missing or something that didn't fit our needs. Nope, we justified, must not be God's calling, we can just stay where we are comfortable. (Or so we thought).
Friends invited us to visit their church. We had really resisted this church because it was a long drive from our house. We decided to give it a try anyway. We really liked several things about the church, but it was still too far, we reasoned.
John, Jr came home for the summer. After visiting this church, he told me that he would get up early and go to church with me, if I would go to this new to us church. Of course, I told him I would go. As I attended week after week, I noticed a zeal returning. I noticed that I was learning new spiritual principles and applying them to my daily life. I actually looked forward to church on Saturday evenings. If I wasn't going, I was disappointed, feeling like I was missing out. The little kids loved going and could come and tell me what they had talked about.
John visited with me several times. The same zeal caught him by surprise. Finally we had the conversation that maybe we needed to make the church change. But, we continued to resist it. How could we hurt those we love? How could we leave our familiar surroundings? How could we leave the reputations we had built over the 24 years we've been here? We didn't know how we could do it, or why God would desire us to?
In Bible Study Fellowship, we were studying Acts. When we studied about Paul and Barnabas, I knew that I had my answer. Paul and Barnabas disagreed about who to take on their next journey, so they took two different men and split company. Paul went to one place and Barnabas went to another. It seemed like a harmful thing, but because of the split, two places, instead of one, heard the Gospel. At this point, I knew that I had confirmation that we were going to be leaving. I waited for John to get a word from the Lord. I didn't want it to be my idea, I wanted it to be God's idea.
We dedicated the month of March to prayer about whether we should leave. Two weeks ago, John was asking God to speak to him. He opened his Bible to his daily reading, Isaiah 30:21:
'Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it."'(NIV)
That was it. God had spoken, we both had confirmation that we were to leave. We have no idea what God is going to do, or what job He has for us. We are walking and trusting God to reveal where we need to go. I read somewhere, "God can't direct you if you aren't moving, or willing to move." So we are moving. We will start at the new church and see if God directs us to stay a while.
Back to the hard. Our pastors and fellow Elders were wonderful. They prayed over us and everyone wished us well, expressing their love for us. I have to admit, I'm scared, pretty close to being petrified! These folks have always been there for us. But, maybe that is part of the problem? Maybe somewhere along this journey I began to trust in my church relationships, and not in my God? Maybe God has a need in some church that we know how to meet? I really don't know. But we are walking by faith and praying for God to direct our paths.
So, while I'm grieving, I'm also excited! There is a newness, freshness and renewed dependence on my God. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?