It had been months since we had last seen Ned and Dena – a delightful, fun-loving couple with their three precious children. They had been so welcoming to us in our last setting – inviting one of our children to a birthday party literally on the first day we met, and often including us in fellowship gatherings at their home. Their presence in our lives had been an extraordinary and unanticipated blessing.
But the day came when they announced to their family and friends that they had decided to relocate. Everyone understood, but truly regretted seeing them go. Their moving day came a few short months later and we all said goodbye wondering when our paths would ever intersect again.
One afternoon about six months after their move I answered our home phone and immediately recognized the energized sound of Ned’s voice. We spoke briefly and then I let him know that my husband wasn’t currently at home, but he could contact him on his cell-phone. Not to be deterred Ned remarked, “I actually want to talk to you. You’ve experienced this so many times more than we have.”
“Yes?” I replied with uncertainty.
“Moving. You’ve moved and had to start over at a new church and create a new community. How do you do it?”
There. He said it. All I had to do was provide the formula. Right?
I pondered for a moment. His question was one that I had wrestled with often. I prodded a bit, “Have you found a church?”
“We’ve been looking, but it’s not the same,” he answered. “Not after what we had at our last church. You know what I’m talking about. I don’t think we’ll ever find a place like that again.”
He was right, in a sense. Their experience had been extraordinary at their previous church community. Fledglings in the Christian faith, their curiosity, and joy in this new found path had been contagious – igniting and renewing the faith of many in the community. It had been a unique time and place in their lives positioning them for a special time of witness. But now they were in a different season of life and a new place where people would not be aware of their past struggles and profound discoveries. How does one cultivate a place of belonging among strangers who don’t know who you are now or who you once were?
I listened as he shared about their searching – visiting a few churches expecting to be loved and swept into the fellowship, but when their expectations weren’t met they suddenly found other things to do. Instead, they opted to escape the pain of homelessness by sleeping in on Sunday mornings and claiming a few of the many distractions that weekends offer our suburban souls.
“How do you do it?” he asked again. “How do you start over?”
I had an answer not an antidote – but a distinct attitude of the heart. “You’ve received so much,” I assured him. “You’ve been blessed in ways many people will never know. But I think you’re right. You’re not going to have again what you’ve left behind. When you visit a church maybe you’re just expecting that all over again. Why not simply go to give?”
“Go to give?” he echoed. He paused and then he said it again, “Go to give.”
I went on, “It’s not easy moving. But perhaps, all those rich experiences can be the foundation for the next stage of your journey. Maybe God wants to use you differently now.”
“Go to give,” he echoed one more time. The words seemed to be taking root. “Thanks, Florence. Thanks a lot for this.”
“Thank you,” I replied. I’ll be praying for you in the days ahead.”