Grace for the Next Thing

 

Sunday we said good-bye.

That’s farewell to Faith Bible Church, the church that found us nine years ago when we were younger and vulnerable and looked terrible on paper. (At our first contact with Pastor Steve and Faith, Amanda had taken the two babies and gone to her mother in Wisconsin. I’d remained in Germany to finish the mission work and was sleeping nights in my tent—just for fun, but also because students filled the mission building.) Other churches thought us missionary burn-outs, I’m sure.

Faith found us. Now, after nine years have passed like the sucking sound of the midnight express, it’s time to say good-bye.

I expected seventy-five people to turn up for our potluck. But, our church family filled the place. I’d planned a little speech of gratitude. But, I got overwhelmed and forgot most of it. Amanda too. It was just too much love and gratitude … Probably best. It was about the nine years, and not to be a swan song. And, it wasn’t about us at all, not really.

Here’s what I meant in my teary-eyed little speech:

The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 1:21-24, shows his heart to the Philippians—For to me is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 

Lots about this doesn’t apply to me, right now—not contemplating dying, at the moment, and not staying, to name two. But, something strikes me here, something that ties me to the Apostle:

We both know what it is to want more than one thing.

In a profound way, we don’t want to depart Iowa and Faith Bible. We love the church that has grieved and celebrated with us, watched us bring home babies, and shared our personal tragedies and joys. We like our solid little Craftsman home and will dearly miss our walks and our life in our charming and historic neighborhood.

But, we want something else. We want to follow the Lord’s leading to our new church family in Westboro/Rib Lake, Wisconsin. We want to add the family of Woodland Community Church to the big, joyful, collective family made up of all those we’ve known and loved.

But, right now, between the two, this death and rebirth feels like grief.

And that’s life between Christ’s two comings. Someone dies, a baby is born. In order to arrive, we have to leave. We can’t have everything, and we can’t even have more than one thing, sometimes.

But, we can have grace for the next thing. The present thing. But, to know that grace there has to be a giving up. Paul said as much, in Acts 20:24, as the Ephesian elders wept at his parting—But, I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course in the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

There’s single-mindedness there. And, if I’ve learned anything from my Faith Bible family, there is joy in the doing of it. And, in the doing of it, there’s a longing for Christ’s coming when all our desires will be joined.

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1 thought on “Grace for the Next Thing”

  1. Very touching post Bryan. I definitely thought of the Apostle Paul saying goodbye to the Ephesian church in Acts, and you really laid out the dissonance that comes with following God’s will. I remember that Dallas Willard said in one of his books that the discipline of solitude will always involve some kind of pain in the act of disconnecting with loved ones, and I think you can say this of most spiritual disciplines “between Christ’s two comings.” Perhaps this is because when we look on the cross we see the utmost pain for the utmost good, and this gets lived out in our own lives. In a (mystical?) way, you’ve had a good-Friday type experience (loss, disconnect, emotional pain), with the hope of an Easter morning experience (reconnecting, resurrection, new creation) in the future. I think of partly of Lazarus’ sisters and Jesus words and acts toward them, and on the other hand of Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians not to “grieve as others do who have no hope.” In both occasions we are reminded that in Christ, all things will be ours, and the life we will live then will bring closure and resolution to the pain we have now.

    I got carried away, but I hope you see my point 😉

    I’ll continue to pray for you and your family, and I look forward to the next blog post!

    (p.s., if I got a Yeti cooler, I’d probably be as excited as Greta looks in that last picture, too).

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