Friday, March 3, 2017

Finding Purpose in the Unknown

Memories are sneaky, aren't they?

This morning the thought hit me that it has been a year since our family's lives took a huge turn.  I was packing up our home, preparing to move to a place half a mile away that would become temporary home to our family for two months. It was generously offered to us, an answered prayer to meet a short term need.  We had put an offer on a three bedroom ranch almost two hours south of where we lived, but  could not qualify for the new mortgage until we closed on one we now owned.  I had spent weeks sorting through clothes and household items, discarding the unnecessary and packing away the essentials.  Photos and videos, books and decorations--all evidence of a life overflowing with love and purpose were packed away in brown boxes and stacked in the corner of our front room.

Our journey was one from security to limbo.  From a place of history, friends and family to the unknown.  What do you do with the huge assortment of emotions that threaten to overtake you at any moment while holding what is most treasured-- physical evidence of the memories that were yours, and packing it all away, not knowing when you could unpack it again?  

Our house had sold in a little over a week, to the first couple who had looked at it.  The sprawling four bedroom plus den, three bath, 2700 square foot home with a pool on an acre of land overlooking fields in three directions would become home to a young doctor, his wife and two year old son.  The negotiations were complete.  We had settled on less than we had hoped for, but in the end it was fair.

But there's so much more to this story.  My husband had been planning on stepping down from his lead pastor position in a church he had led for 16 years.  We had realized for over a year that we were to be given new marching orders, that our time pastoring an amazing group of people in a small town in central Florida had come to an end.

Because we loved our church, we knew we couldn't announce too soon that their pastor was leaving.  If word got out without the proper puzzle pieces being in place, we felt it could damage the very thing we had poured our lives into. The people of our church were too precious, too valuable to risk hurting, even though it would have been much easier.  And even though it is done often in our denomination, we couldn't bear the thought of saying good-bye to them without presenting the pastor who would lead them next.  Everything we did in relation to our ministry change, the purchasing of a new home, packing up the one we lived in, and moving a half a mile down the road to our temporary home had to be done on the "down low."

Our kids were sworn to secrecy. We were taking them from the familiar to some of the most unfamiliar territory they had ever experienced in their lives. Knowing they were going to be leaving all of their friends, and yet not being able to share that information proved to be too much for them. Slowly a few choice friends were let in on our family secret, and in the end it was okay.

Oh, and did I mention that our precious daughter was graduating high school and would not be moving south with our family? Graduation, senior pictures, party, packing.  If all of the leaving wasn't enough, we had to pack up our daughter and help her move north.

I can hardly type these words without tears streaming down my face.

From the known to the unknown.
From security to insecurity.
From history, memories, and friendships to a clean slate.

If you have walked this road, you will agree that it's really, really hard.

And if it were all random, without a plan, without a trust in the One who was leading us, it would have made absolutely no sense.
But we trusted in the plan and purpose of the One who made us and used us, and was leading us, even though we could not see beyond the next few steps. Even though we may not have done it all right.

But, isn't that what a life of faith is?

Scripture says that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

We couldn't see beyond our sadness, beyond what we were leaving, because the future wasn't clear, And even though the ripping, the tearing of the old wineskins was so very painful, it would allow us to receive the new ones.  

There was purpose in our unknown.

If we did not leave, the new pastor could not come.
If we did not move forward, we would fall behind.
If we did not obey, we could not say we loved and followed Him.
If we did not say goodbye, we could not embrace the new.

I would love to say that a year later, all that we have left has been given back to us, multiplied over again.  We are still in the building process.  There is still much of our path that is foggy and unclear. But as we take a new step each day, our Heavenly Father's plan is leading us in the direction He had in mind for us all along.  And maybe a year from now, maybe more, we will again look back on the road behind us, now clear, and think, "Of course. That was the right path all along. There really was a purpose to all of the uncertainty along the way."

Until then, we walk by faith, not by sight.