Could it be that God allows good, smart, and even God-fearing people to see different perspectives then you so that you would press into what God really has designed for your life?
The past five years I’ve continued to experience wonderful, loving, good-hearted people, many of which love Jesus but choose different life directions than me, and I am left in wonderment… Are they wrong? Am I wrong? Why, Lord, are they convicted in that direction, and why am I convicted in this direction? I weigh out what I know about their life, their choices, their track record, and I compare it to my life to try to make sense of why we are different…and quietly I make an opinion. The topics vary- from church, schooling, parenting, eating and exercising, to contributing to community, neighbors, family and friends. Many of these people go to a different church than me, some do not go to church at all, and others beautifully do Church in all aspects of their life regardless of attending church on Sunday or not. All these people have blessed me and influenced my walk with Jesus. They all contribute to what I am writing today.
This journey I’ve been on has been a lifetime really. I grew up in Port Angeles and did mostly normal life: school Monday – Friday, church on Sunday, bible study on Tuesday (well, I was a kid, but I loved bible study nights so I could play with my friends and eat popcorn!), and played sports through the year. Our house was a hang-out for all the neighborhood kids and more! If we were not there we were having fun outside or playing at the lake (where all our friends would join). I literally don’t know how my parents handled the crazy, the mess, the chaos. Amongst all the fun and busyness, I always was pondering and weighing right and wrong in my heart. Sometimes I shared my thoughts or questions with others, but I learned pretty quick that questions were a nuisance for most adults. When I expressed my thoughts or questions to my friends, I was either met with a blank stare or told an opinion that seemed totally contrary to what I was feeling was “right” in my spirit. I had lots of wonderments too. With wonderments that were not spelled out clearly in the Bible, I would be okay with not knowing the “right” answer, but was bothered when Christians around me perceived open-handed issues as “wrong.” I occasionally met people I could be myself with, but typically even Christians seemed to look at me with their head cocked. This has been my life for 39 years.
I moved away from Port Angeles when I was 19. The journey back here was unquestionably, God’s timing. I met my husband in Seattle fifteen years ago, although he is also from Port Angeles. Both our families are here and we thought moving back would be good for the kids and us. Okay, let’s be honest, I was quietly super scared, but outwardly overjoyed with excitement.
You see God worked it all out for us to come back. My husband had been wanting to for years, but finding a comparable job seemed impossible. We bought our first home 5 years ago in the Seattle area and the process in getting it led me to my knees many times. One day the Lord spoke and told me we would move back to Port Angeles someday and be part of something new. He also spoke a man’s name on my heart that I hope someday will be a huge influence for the Kingdom of God in Port Angeles and beyond. As for today, I do not even know if he knows Jesus. But God does, and will work it all out for His glory.
I share that part of my journey because I don’t know what it all means and that is okay! Since God did not lead us back to PA when buying our first home (and giving me that word) I figured he would have us raise our family in Seattle and then lead us back here when the kids were graduated or at least much older. Nope. You see, God gives and God takes; God speaks and God is silent when He knows it is best for us and for His glory. Instead, He provided the opportunity for us to move back in June 2016 and worked out an unbelievably blessed home near both sets of our parents. Wonderful. The story is just wonderful!
So now I am here and have been for a year. My heart isn’t singing the “wonderful” song anymore. Life has settled. Our family is adjusting to new schedules, new school, new friendships, new rhythms. Not only am I as a parent, wife and disciple being stretched but my children also are being stretched beyond measure. People have opinions, perspectives, observations of what they think is best for me and my family. What do I do with that? Remember those good, smart, sometimes God-fearing people around me with all their perspectives? What do I do when it isn’t in line with what my husband and I sense in our hearts as God’s direction for our life as a family? May it be what church we are attending or not attending, what school we have our children in, what parenting techniques to use, what to eat or not eat, how to exercise, how to best contribute to community, neighbors, family and friends or… not. I am exhausted by my efforts to please, to listen to others and try all their ways…my rope is unraveled now and I am raw. Could God have allowed all these pressures on me, on my family this year so that we could press into what He has designed for our life?
Despite what has been going on in me internally, what I’ve delighted in most about moving back to Port Angeles is the people in the many churches, many gyms, many professions, many walks of life, who seek to make this town a better place. My heart breaks for the broken-hearted, but I am encouraged by many who desire to help make change in this place. We all may have opinions on how change for the broken can be best solved, but one point that seems to be consistent and unable to argue is that each broken-hearted person desperately needs relationship.
So, what does that look like? I’m still figuring it out. God created you in his image and likeness and has designed you for a unique purpose, maybe many purposes. I believe he whispers to our hearts (or ears) each day of ways to love others. Are you listening? I love when I am listening. I am most delighted when I am listening. I am most joy filled and full when I am listening and responding. My life circumstances matter less because I am giving and receiving. Maybe it is a nudge on my heart to offer a stranger a push in his wheelchair, maybe it is telling a young lady I am passing by that she is beautiful, maybe it is pausing to play with a lonely child, maybe it is to pray for the sick man I just passed. Maybe it is calling a stranger I met by name the next time I see him. Maybe it is responding to a prompting to give money or resources to a widow or your neighbor in need or want. Maybe it is your job of nursing people back to health or providing a bed for the homeless. Can we be Jesus to the broken-hearted, by simple acts, each day? Can we respond to God’s nudges made uniquely for us? Not what our church is doing. Not what our best friend is doing. Not what our teachers tell us we need to do, but what God whispers or nudges us to do. In doing these simple acts I believe we will see revival for this community.
Are you okay that they (whoever they are) are doing life differently than you? That is the question I have been wrestling with likely my whole life, but more specifically the past five years. It seems God has pulled away so much of what makes me comfortable. A pastor to listen to uninterrupted for an hour each Sunday. A church building to sing in with a powerful band that helps move my soul. A pew to sit in, next to my husband and enjoy his sweet presence for one hour uninterrupted in the presence of God. Children who I can teach without the influence of a teacher telling me what they should be doing or where they should be testing at. A playground to chase my children in rather than another practice to run to.
You may be picking up that God is shaking out of me what Church really is and what teaching and loving my children really are. He is calling our family out of what is traditional church for the sake of clearing the cob webs and making us more holy. Does this mean that everyone should do this? Absolutely not. I love church, but God wants me to be the Church. He told me five years ago (long before I knew we would be moving back to Port Angeles) that we would be part of something new. I still don’t know what that means. But I am delighted by the new body of believers I am walking with. Many are part of the sweet church of Mended. Others don’t go to church and many go to various other churches in town and beyond. I am blessed by them all!
I am learning it is not wrong that people choose different directions than me, what is wrong is when I become self-righteous and have an agenda for the broken-hearted, for my neighbor or brother. That is wrong. I must trust that they are all in the hands of God and He is whispering His guiding light on their life for His Kingdom as well. If they are listening or not is between them and their creator, not me. What is for me is to listen and respond through love as He calls me to each day.
May we stretch our hands up to the Lord and sing a new song this day. May we invite the Holy Spirit into our life to love our neighbor. This is not cliché, this is truth. May we be a body of pure and genuine religion before our God the Father in visiting orphans and widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unstained from the world. These commands alone will challenge us our entire life. May we have the courage to respond to this call in whichever unique way God has created for your life. Let your light shine!