Well, it’s official.
We’ve closed on our new place and for at least the next four years my wife and I will be living in Connecticut.
It’s sort of surreal. I never thought I would live in the northeast. My wife is from New England, but I’m a southern boy who’s spent his entire life in Tennessee.
I’m really happy that my wife will have an excellent residency program at UConn and I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to study at Yale Divinity School, but how am I supposed to live without sweet tea?!
Ok, I suppose I can make it at home, but how I can be expected to survive without Chick-Fil-A?!?!
You can only ask so much from a person.
But there’s nothing I can do about Chick-Fil-A‘s northern prejudice. So, I guess have no choice, but to heed the words of the prophet Bob Dylan,
“Admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Like it or not, I’m going to have to “start swimming” without my fried chicken and sweet tea floaties.
To be honest, I’m actually really looking forward to the move. I will certainly miss all of my friends and family in Tennessee, but I’ve come to the point over the past few years where I welcome and embrace change. I actually like the unknown and the prospect of discovering something new and wonderful that I otherwise never would have experienced.
I wasn’t always like that of course.
For most of my life, there have been few things that I’ve enjoyed more than the same old, same old. Same old food, same old vacation destination, same old music to listen to, same old place to live in. The same old, same old may be been boring, but it was comfortable, reliable, and most of all it meant that I didn’t have to deal with change.
Like death and taxes, change is one of those inevitable things in life that we can’t avoid. But even though we know it’s coming eventually, it scares us to death. So, many of us do everything we can to avoid it.
We spen millions upon millions of dollars every year on cosmetic surgeries meant to create the illusion that our bodies are not experiencing the changes that come about with age. We may be in our 30s or 40s, but that doesn’t stop us from dressing like we’re still in college or, worse, high school. Job offers or opportunities to attend college in another state may arise, but we turn them down because “they’re too far from home.” Or when it comes to something as simple as choosing where to eat, we find ourselves time and time again at the same chain restaurant because it’s comfortable and we already know there’s something on the menu that we’ll like to eat.
As Christians, we’re not immune from this war against change. We constantly fight to hold on to the style of worship music we grew up with. We revolt when the pastor suggests remolding the church to give it a more contemporary look. Or if someone tries to change the destination of our annual church mission trip, we tear our clothes, cover our head in ashes, and cry out in mourning as if we’ve lost our firstborn.
Ironically, the story of faith we see revealed in the Bible is a story of constant change.
Adam and Eve didn’t stay in the Garden of Eden forever. Joseph was ripped out of his life of privileged and sold into slavery. Abraham was called to leave his homeland and move to a place he’d never visited. After finally getting settled in the promised land, Israel was whisked off into exile. And when Jesus calls his first disciples, it’s a call for them to leave everyone and everything they’ve ever known behind to go and follow him.
One of the things I like most about the Bible is that doesn’t pretend as if things always stay the same for God’s people. Rather, the Bible seems to be interested in how God’s people respond to that change and, in particular, how God is active in their lives before, during, and after those moments of momentous change.
What we ultimately discover in those stories is that God is faithful to God’s people, even and especially when it is God who has led them in a new direction.
If that is true, then I think we should learn to embrace change. For one thing, we can’t do anything to stop it, but more importantly it is in moments of change that we often see God most actively involved in our lives.
It is in moments of change that God is there to give us guidance and direction. In moments of change, God is there to provide for our needs. And when life throws us a painful curve ball that turns our lives upside down, God is there to offer us comfort and peace.
As we said before, we see this occurring time and time again in Scripture. Adam and Eve must leave the garden, but God provides them with clothes for their journey. Joseph is sold into slavery, but God paves the way for his restoration. Abraham journeys into the unknown, but God goes with him, watching over him, protecting him, and providing all his needs. Israel is dragged into exile, but God sends prophets to speak words of peace, comfort, and hope. And the disciples leave everything behind, only to discover the only thing they ever needed.
God continues to be active during the moments of change in our lives today. God opens doors for new jobs and new opportunities. God watches over us and provides for our needs as we step out on faith into the unknown. God sends people into our lives to give us the help we need to survive, even when we don’t want or think we need their help. Simply put, God is always there during moments of change, even if we can’t see God’s handiwork until after everything is said and done.
There are still many unanswered questions surrounding our move to Connecticut, but instead of going into this move with fear and anxiety, I’m choosing to go with the confidence that God will go with us and I’m excited to see what God will do in and through us. I journey forward with this hope because I have seen God at work in our lives already.
When we moved to Memphis, God opened so many doors. My wife was not yet accepted into medical school. We knew virtually no one in the area. We had no place to live. But God was at work in our lives leading me to a ministry position in a denomination in which I wasn’t even a member, providing my wife with a job that came with much needed benefits, finding us a house which has been our home for the past 5 years, and ultimately opening the door for my wife to attend medical school in Memphis.
God has been faithful to us and I have confidence that God will continue to be faithful as we face the next big change in our lives.
So, rather than fret over things which I cannot control and things which very likely may never happen, I take hope in Moses’ words to Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:8,
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I may not be getting ready to conquer a foreign land or lead the nation of Israel, but like Joshua I stand at the precipice of change and am trying to prepare for the unknown that is shortly to come my way. So like Joshua, I will cling to the promise of God spoken through his prophet Moses and walk with hope and confidence into the unknown, knowing that I do not go there alone.
Big changes will come your way too, if they haven’t already. I hope that you too can take comfort in Moses’ words to Joshua and face those changes with the knowledge that the same God who was faithful to God’s people in the Bible, is the same God who journeys with us into the unknown today and that God will never abandon us in our time of need.
Grace and peace,