To paraphrase Philip Yancey, “Faith believes ahead of time what can only be understood by looking back.”
I was six months pregnant with our first child when my husband was transferred to a new job. Moving from our home in California to a new one on the East coast was a terrifying proposition to me. Mercifully, we didn’t have to move until our baby boy was three months old, allowing me to give birth and begin the adjustment to motherhood surrounded by my family and friends.
But the move was hard.
It turned out that the move back less than two years later was even more difficult.
Researching the area, John learned of a church that mutual acquaintances of ours had planted in Laurel, Maryland. It had many young mothers in it like me, was "seeker friendly," and welcomed our involvement. So we moved there. And we dove in. (Choosing where to live based on the Christian community available is brilliant.)
The day we arrived with the moving truck, so did the pastor, asking if we needed help unpacking. When it came time to move back to California, I was eight months pregnant with our second child, and three women appeared on my doorstep with buckets and cleaning materials in hand to spare me the work.
In between was the richest taste of Christian community I have ever had. One of my dear friends drove us to the airport and I clung to her, sobbing, as we said our painful goodbyes. Leaving wasn’t just difficult. It was excruciating.
That was twenty-two years ago. The church just finished celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary and to end the yearlong celebration, John and I flew back to participate. I was honored to speak at a women’s event Saturday night, John spoke at the two Sunday morning services and God, well, God blindsided me. Overwhelmed during the worship Sunday, I had to sit down with my face in my hands and weep.
I wept for remembering. I wept for the unhealed sorrow I didn’t know was there. I wept for the taste of Heaven that going back and being with these dear ones offered me. I know Heaven is real. I believe that in our lives with Christ, nothing good is truly lost. I believe we get back every treasured time and moment and relationship that has been taken from us.
But I didn’t know I was going to experience that on this trip. It turned out to be an appetizer to the Banquet, a slipping into the joy of eternity, a holy reunion.
Leading worship were two dear ones, a husband and wife, who led worship twenty-two years ago. There he was playing the guitar with passion and skill, and she was singing with beauty and depth. The pastor and his wife were leading, loving, and speaking with the same gentle and winsome strength that they used to–though all of their hearts have been honed and crafted by suffering. Two rows behind me was a couple we often had picnics with and when the husband saw me, this composed, reserved man climbed over the chairs to hug me.
You bet I wept.
A lot of life has happened since we were last with this company of believers. We have all endured much. Hardship. Illness. Loss. Pain. Betrayals. Death.
And we all have also known goodness. Beauty. Faith. Surrender. Glory. Joy. Hope. Love. Life. The presence of God.
Jesus reigned then and he reigns now. Acknowledging all of the life and goodness that has come from our difficult choice to leave those many years ago, a friend said, “I hated that you had to leave. And I’m so glad you did.”
Yes. Me, too. Looking back, and looking forward, I can truly say, “Thank you, Jesus. You are the Giver of all good gifts even when all is mystery and I simply don’t understand. Thank you. Thank you for everything.”