Twenty two years ago, Keith and I realized that trying to live our lives without letting God be in charge wasn’t working for us. We rededicated our lives to Him and shortly after found a church. Harvest was an integral part of our lives for fifteen years. Over time, though, change occurred. Change in us, change in the church. Seven years ago, God made it clear it was time to move on. It was a hard, emotionally wrenching move, but He assured us we were on the right path and that He had a place of rest for us.
That place of rest turned out to be Lowell Church of God. There were doctrinal differences, but they loved the Lord and loved us, so it worked. We made friends and Lowell became the safe place God had promised.
But, life changes. And ours did, dramatically. I was laid off. Keith was laid off. I took a job in retail where I worked late many Wednesdays and worked every other Sunday. Our finances were in the toilet. Several of our friendships were in the same place.
One of those relationships was with the children’s, then youth, pastor and his wife. It’s a long story I won’t go into. They were in a bad place. We were in a bad place. There were hurt feelings. And unforgiveness. My favorite sermon at that time was Bishop TD Jakes preaching about his “gift of goodbye.” I had certainly received that gift. I chose to exercise the gift and move on with life.
As all this was happening, God moved them to another church. Then, He moved us. No, not to another church – He moved us to the sticks!
When we first moved, we honestly thought it was a temporary move. I guess it took about six months to realize that didn’t seem to be the plan.
We tried a few churches, but none felt like the place we were supposed to be. Mostly, God seemed to be working on teaching us to listen to Him when there was no pastor around to give us direction.
There were those who would have said we were wondering in the wilderness, like the Israelites. There was a time that I would have hotly refuted that statement! Today, however, God reminded me that it was Him Who had the Israelites in the wilderness. They were never wandering aimlessly and He never deserted them.
And so it has been for us. He has held us aside from “institutional church,” teaching us, guiding us, strengthening our relationship with Him and helping us learn to rely on our ability to hear from Him.
Now, those of you who know me know that one of my favorite things to say is, “We tell our plans to God and He laughs.”
Guess what! God’s laughing.
That couple with whom I exercised my gift of goodby? Yeah, well, despite the fact that I said I was done with them, they are now my pastors.
God had revealed to me months ago that it was time to be back in church, that my boy desperately needed it. Keith still works most Sundays, so we visited churches as we could, with or without him. Every time we found one I thought I might could like, God said no. A couple months ago, I woke up with the absolute knowledge that I was supposed to be at Daniel and Tabitha’s church. When I told Keith, his response was, “In Lincolnton???” Yes. In Lincolnton. Forty-five minutes away. He shrugged and said, “if that’s what God’s telling you, then okay.” When I contacted Tabitha, she was a little more excited that I would have expected. It didn’t take her long to tell me that they had been praying for a children’s minister and she thought I was the answer to that prayer. After a couple days of praying, I realized this was God’s plan. (Even though I had also sworn I was done with children’s ministry.)
So. This is a story of restoration. Of God finishing what He started. Of His ability to speak to the hearts of His children. And yes, of wilderness walking.
Do you feel like you’re in a wilderness? Cling to God. He hasn’t left you or forsaken you and never will.
And for those of you watching your friends walk around in a wilderness, don’t assume you know what’s going on. Unless God has revealed it to you, you have no clue what His plan is for them. Don’t be like Job’s friends! Just encourage them and love them. God’s got the perfect plan.
Be blessed and tell someone you love them.