After months of unrest, and months of feeling unsettled, and months of waiting out silence, God started to clarify some things for me late last fall--very quickly, and very clearly. And taking very small steps, each one weighed and confirmed with Him as best as I know how, I stepped out into this new thing, this massive change in my life. For reasons that are His own, He's called me away from my church of eight years. When left to my own devices I am a list-maker, a score-keeper, a grudge-holder, and so it feels very strange to give only one (seemingly small) answer to such a big why:
Because He told me.
I've witnessed other people make a similar change, and have seen the effects and aftershocks, and so early on I started deciding how people would take it. I steeled myself for arguments and criticism, for gossip and rumor, for silence. I was sure there would be some who would take it well, with grace and understanding, but I was certain I would be fighting for these last two months since I started telling people.*
And, to be honest, there have been a small handful of weird moments, strange words, puzzling reactions. More than once I have gritted my teeth, pressed my mouth closed, and taken my sadness and confusion to Jesus. He handles it so much better than I do, and when I hand it to Him, He doesn't give it back.
But the overwhelming story of the last two months is marked by surprise, and joy, and peace. I spoke words into a phone out of necessity--I hate phones--and waited for my dear friend to ask questions. "I just looked over at you in the pew last week," she said, "and I had this certainty that one of these days I would look over there and you would be gone." I spoke words into a dark car and heard only a sigh from the driver's seat. "Can you tell me how He told you?" she asked, "Because I feel like He's not talking to me right now." I spoke words to a dear couple, and they replied in love and commitment and devotion: "We'll miss you, but this next church must need you so badly." I texted words--too late, after the fact, frustrated at myself--and got back, "I appreciate you telling me. How are you feeling?"
And today I was trying to fend off what I was sure would be awkwardness via Facebook (honestly, the worst for this sort of thing), and received a message back full of love and grace: "I love you and I will miss you. However let me tell you that following God's leading is all I needed to hear." She went on to speak of the legacy I'm leaving and how I made a difference for her, and how she's stepping out in trust. She's twice my age and has loved Jesus for longer than I've been breathing, and she thanked me for speaking into her life.
I have been so overwhelmed with this. The sense of peace and confirmation I had, in the beginning only from God, has been echoed and harmonized by acquaintances and dear friends and I am at a loss for words. And this is saying something--it's me we're talking about. What was a gut-wrenching struggle has become a place of peace and easiness. He has truly traded my ashes for beauty, brought me to dancing instead of mourning. He is so appallingly faithful to such a screw-up as myself. It is utterly humbling, and totally empowering, and I cannot even deal.
One friend asked about the timing, asked why I wasn't at least going to stay for Easter. But if Easter is about anything at all, it is about becoming a new thing, about walking through a torn veil, about being born over and over again, every morning a new creation. While it was incidental in the timeframe that seamlessly revealed itself, it feels fitting to commence this new season of looking for my new place, my new calling, with the day when we celebrate and rejoice--again, again, again--in the new, the changed, the remade.
If you have been one who's showered me with love and grace in these last months, I thank you so very much, past words. If you have been one who felt awkward, sad, strange, betrayed, upset, angry, please hear that I understand, and I am sorry, but not sorry enough to go against the will of my God. A sweet friend hugged me a week after I'd told her, and whispered, "My vote is still against this, you know." I smiled and told her that was fine, as long as she understood that neither she nor I got a vote. His say trumpets over every pro and every con, His voice drowns out every other including my own.
"I can say goodbye, can leave these days behind
for I know my Shepherd will lead me to life.
And I will not be satisfied 'til I'm before His throne:
I've loved it here, but this is not my home."
* A quick note on my telling people: Here, again, God allowed some opportunities and didn't allow others, and I have relied on that. It was physically impossible to individually tell all hundred-plus people I've shared life with at SPCN, and so if this is how you're finding out I'm truly, truly sorry. Please understand it's not that you didn't make the cut of Important People. It's not that I didn't care. It's just that I needed to live life outside and through this decision, and that meant that not everyone found out as I would have liked: from my mouth, eye-to-eye, over a quiet table at Cookie Jar with cups of coffee and half-pound Boston Creams.**
**A second quick note: No one found out over Cookie Jar Boston Creams. Weird how life works.
And finally, a quick postscript:
I've disabled comments on this post. Please don't take that to mean I don't want to hear from you. Only that this process has highlighted for me the value of what is done personally versus what is seen and said publicly. Any comments or questions you have, I welcome--please call me, email me, text me, write me, see me.