The kids were playing on the platform at church yesterday as B and I helped break down the worship team’s sound equipment. At our church, the platform is made of beautiful slate with three steps, and true to child form, they were taking turns jumping. Seeing how far they could go, seeing how tremendous that jump must be.
I had to fight the urge to hold them back, to point out the sharpness of those stone edges or the flimsiness of flip flops. I had to force myself to see the capability of their bodies, the confidence that built with every leap. They were being careful, I saw. It was a big jump, but not huge, and the landing was wide open before them.
I should probably correct myself: this is our former church.
B and I have been going to the same church since we got married–eleven years, once you take out the two we spent in Virginia. It’s not a tremendous amount of time, in the scheme of things. I’d attended the church of my childhood for twenty. But this wasn’t the church of my childhood, the church that suited my parents. This was the church we chose as adults, albeit young. We felt at home the very first time we walked though the door, and that anchor remained through our move across the country, through the birth of our children, through pastor changes and financial crises, through the dry times in the church when we struggled over ministry opportunities and program deficiencies and a plain lack of people our age. We often looked around that church and wondered why on earth God would be keeping us there. But He was. Neither of us could deny that.
And slowly, He revealed His purposes. Faced with the choice to work with God or continue to confront Him, we dug into our roles. We started groups for young women and and young families. We joined Sunday school classes. I took on the bulletin, an ideal job for a tech savvy writer with young children (I could do it all from the comfort of my couch). B rejoined the church board, even heading it during a particularly stormy time. Together we learned to run the sound and media production, a ministry that truly became a joy for us both.
Around us, the church changed too. More young people joined. More children started attending. The kids made friends, as did we. People we loved, people who were passionate about Christ. One morning in our Sunday school class, we discussed the church. We had been going there longer than anyone else in the room by at least five years, and we were testifying about the transformation the church had made.
“Why did you stay?” someone asked. B and I looked at each other. “Because God wanted us here,” we replied.
Only an hour later in the sound booth was I struck with a particular but undeniable conviction: I’m going to ask you to go.
I wavered. I’m good at ignoring God; it serves my stubborn nature. But I know it’s wrong, both because it’s outright sinful and because it’s not in my best interest. God knows best. I can recognize that, even if I don’t want to. And He certainly knew what He was doing, keeping us at our church. He must know what He’s doing now.
B felt equally convicted, and we began a long process of prayer. Prayer to make sure we understood. Prayer for direction. Questioning prayer, frustrated prayer. Why now? I wanted to know. Why now, when things are finally flourishing, when we are so very fulfilled?. But there was no answer, only the continued conviction that we were meant to move.
So for several months we alternated between attending and working at our church, then visiting new churches on the few free Sundays we had. The churches we tried seemed to fit one or two of us but not all. They brought discord, and we’d reluctantly start again somewhere else. In the meantime, Sundays at our church felt awkward, as though we were cheating on a relationship. The prayer continued, only this time, there was finally an answer: I need you to go NOW.
I watched my children on the platform on what I knew was our last Sunday as active members of the church, jumping those steps, sticking their landing. What I wanted–what I had expected God to ask of us–was much similar: an easy move, with a perfect place to land. Not far, not tough. A clear path and clean landing.
What He was really asking was for me to jump, landing unseen. Imagine if that floor wasn’t there for my kids. Imagine if they were jumping who knew how far, and landing who knew where. I wouldn’t let them go. I wouldn’t go. And yet, it’s the crux of my faith, that sometimes I won’t know. Because it’s not about where I land. It’s about whether I’ll jump.
We jumped. We told the pastor, the music director, our Sunday school teachers. The morning passed for me in an emotional haze. I wanted so badly to hold onto everything, and I also wanted to let it go. I’m glad I desired to be obedient, and yet I waited also for God to take it back, to change His mind at the last moment as he did with Abraham and Isaac. But this time, He demanded our sacrifice, and we bowed to His authority.
He gave me this verse several weeks ago, and it continues to give me fresh understanding and comfort: “‘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'” (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows where we’ll land. He loves me as I love my children, and while I know that there are certain things that can only be built through experience, I would never let them jump if I didn’t see it was safe. His love is my ground now, my home away from home, and since His eyes are the only ones who see the landing, we’re trusting in Him to lead the way.