One year ago, I was a few weeks away from launching a church I was planting. And I was a few weeks away from my wedding. And, little did I know. I was also a few weeks away from canceling that church plant and instead, having to make the decision to close it.
I had been working on this parachute church plant for a little over a year and was becoming more aware that a thriving and healthy plant was not going to happen. At that time, I had been approached by a mega-church a few states away to candidate for their lead pastor position. All while I was in the final weeks of my wedding preparations. It was a hectic season.
My (now) husband and I met online and dated long distance. So just a couple of months before, he had moved to Michigan to be closer to me leading into the wedding. So, we were adjusting to life in the same state at the same time that this was all happening.
A few days before the wedding, I made the difficult call to close the church plant. While on our honeymoon, I found out that I was the second choice for the lead pastor role. When we arrived home from our honeymoon, it settled in that neither of us had jobs, or any plan now that we weren’t moving forward with the plant. Great way to start a marriage, right?
So, my new husband and I started prayerfully exploring where God might lead us. And, we began candidating across the country. I’m a preacher/pastor and my husband is a worship pastor. Frankly, we’re a pretty ‘marketable’ couple. Or, so we were told.
No Place Like Home
Over the next several months, we would travel for interviews for one or both of us across the country. We would get excited about the possibility of finally knowing our next step. But, for whatever reason, at each stop, God seems to close each door.
In the midst of this, we listed our home for sale thinking that it would take some time to sell. Five days later, we were scheduling our closing! So, we suddenly found ourselves unemployed and homeless. So, we put our stuff in storage and moved and hour away into my parents basement.
Again, great way to start a marriage? Um. No. But, we stayed there for nearly three months as we continued to search for where God would lead us.
Finally, He led us to a place that made no sense. Frankly, I don’t know why my husband even put in an application, other than we were getting more frustrated at our situation by the day.
But, God made it clear that He was leading us to where we now live and serve. A small town in Oklahoma. Far away from both of our families and friends. At a ministry job for only him.
Again. It makes no sense.
Do you know what it’s like to sit back each week and watch other people do the thing that you know that you’re called to? Preaching makes my heart come alive more than anything else. I love it. When I preach, I know I am truly doing what God has called me too.
But, the job was just for him. God made it clear, though. So, we moved.
Settling In, Or Not.
There was a kind lady in the church that allowed us to stay with here when we first arrived. So, we moved into her pool house for about 8 weeks. And, we moved our stuff into another storage unit.
We finally were able to purchase our home, get our stuff out of storage and settle in. Or, so we thought.
We had the home and we had our stuff. But those things aren’t what make you feel at home.
It’s now (at the time I write this) been 3 months of living in our home. I hate to say it, but we still don’t feel settled. If you’ve ever made a big move, you know it takes a long time to make new friends and memories in a space. Those are the things that really make you feel at home. It takes more than a building with things in it.
Slowly. Very slowly. We’re building memories and making friends. And we both believe that there will come a time, in the not too far off future, where we really feel at home here.
And, we believe there will come a time when God’s leading us here will make sense. Although It doesn’t yet. Especially in my selfish and fleshly eyes.
All of my seminary training. And all of my passion and giftedness to preach. All of my ministry experience. What could God be doing? Don’t get me wrong, I find other ways to use my gifts. But, sometimes, it still leaves me longing. And sometimes, I still find myself mourning the close of the church plant. And sometimes, I find myself crying out to God with curiosity, frustration, hurt and wonder.
The Hardest Year Of My Life.
But, there are so many things I have learned, and things that I have yet to learn.
While don’t know what God has yet to form within me, let me share a few of the things that God has been teaching me.
God is Faithful.
When I have wandered or when my eyes have flooded over with tears, He has been there. He is steadfast and He is true to His word. Maybe most amazingly, He has seen the tears I’ve cried and He feels my pain.
You may need that reminder today. After a long week, or a long year, or a long life… God is with you. One of His names, Emmanuel means “God with us”. He came to earth to be with you. He sent His Spirit to be with you. Even now, He is pursuing you with His love.
The God who made it all and who sustains it all is in love with you!
Be encouraged. Even when you feel alone, worn out, lost… You have Him.
God is True to His Word
I wrestled with the call to preach for a long time. I knew as a child that God had called me to preach, but I was terrified. And I hadn’t seen female preachers. And I didn’t know where to begin. But, overtime, I began to accept and embrace it.
For me, however, there were times when I misplaced my identity and found it in the thing He had called me to rather than in Him. That was never His intent. God’s purpose for you will never replace God’s presence with you. I had elevated His purpose to a place that it didn’t belong.
So, for God to lead us to a place where I’m not only not preaching, but not in local church ministry, there have been moments when I’ve felt lost. There have been moments where I’ve wondered if God changed His mind, or if He was punishing me for misplacing my identity.
Friend. That’s not how God works. That’s not his nature. He doesn’t play games with us or toss our emotions around to teach us a lesson. He’s not vindictive or spiteful.
Not only that, God is true to His word. If He has spoken a dream, vision or calling into your heart, He will bring it to fruition. The timing may be different than you expect. It might look different than you’ve anticipated. But God does the things He says He will.
You don’t need to worry about bringing about the things He’s spoken to you. You need to receive them in faith and act in obedience. Friend, you don’t fulfill His promises. He fulfills His promises.
But here’s the truth… His promises are not better than His presence. His presence is everything. It’s His presence that changes us, reveals the places in our hearts that need to be shaped, challenged and remade. When we spend time with Him, He calls us to deeper surrender.
You worry about getting in His presence, and He’ll take care of the promises.
God is Working
Our God is the One who creates where there is nothing and speaks order into chaos. And, He is the one who speaks to the raging storm and it is stilled. He is the God who has promised to never leave or forsake His Children. And He is the God who meets us in the middle of the mess of our lives.
He doesn’t miss the fact that you’re hurting. He sees the longing of your heart. And He will calm the storm. Again, it might not be in the timing you hope for. Nor, will it likely be in the way you hope for. But, is with you in the midst of it.
Here is the other incredible thing. In the middle of the storm, He will teach you and shape you. In the end, if you remain submitted to Him, with your heart turned toward Him, He will stretch you and shape you and cause you to grow. He will use the present suffering, pain, longing, in order to draw you closer to Him and conform you to the image of Jesus Christ.
While none of us want to ask for a hard year, scripture tells us clearly to expect it and even rejoice in it when it comes. Because through it, we know God will be at work. Isn’t that what we all want? We want God to be glorified in our lives, for us to be conformed to the image of Christ.
May God be Glorified
Even as I write this, I am still learning so much. And, as I write this, my heart still aches and my mind still wonders. However, I chose to submit to God’s call to this place and wait on Him each day.
When I do, I know that He is glorified. Moreover, I also wonder what will be on the other side of my submission to Him.
I simply don’t know yet. So, I wait. I trust. And I chose each day to submit to what He calls me to that day.
Throughout life, there are seasons of life and death. Joy and pain. Longing and fulfillment. This season is hard. But there will come a point when this season transitions to the next. But, throughout every season, I’m called to be obedient.
So, whatever you’re going through, I pray that you accept that call; obedience to God today.