The weeks leading up to my move to California have been full of contemplation. Looking forward and looking back. I’ve been in Boston for 11 years now. These years have been both difficult and joyful. I’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But what if I hadn’t come to New England 11 years ago? What if I had stayed in the familiarity and comfort of what was known back in Chattanooga, Tennessee? It’s conceivable. From the outside looking in, there was really no reason to move to Boston. Life was good back in Tennessee. I had friends. We played softball (and won!).
I had a great church family. Ministry was healthy and fruitful. My favorite coffee shop had a drink named after me for goodness sake! It felt like home. Honestly, staying would have been easier and simpler. But, when it became abundantly clear that God was calling me to partner with Him in loving college students in Boston, I said yes to Him, which was a yes to move. If I had never left Tennessee, I wouldn’t have been able to be a part of what God was doing there in Boston. I never would have met the students that are now so precious to me. I never would have witnessed students surrendering their lives to Jesus or growing in their faith or taking risks for the Gospel or pursuing their curiosity in Jesus. At even the thought of them my heart swells! Over the last 11 years in ministry in New England, two things are certain: God has been faithful and my joy has increased.
Now, as I consider what lies ahead in Santa Barbara, California, I am convinced of this: the God who was faithful in the past will surely be faithful in the future. Following Him into the unknown will not be easy, but will increase my joy. This is how it is possible for me to even entertain the idea of moving away from Boston. Because just like it was back in Tennessee, life in Boston was good. It is because of this 11 year journey that I was able to hear and obey God in the next calling.
The practice of uprooting and leaving to partner with Jesus in what He’s doing with someone else or somewhere else is a picture of the life on mission. It may not be moving across the country to plant a church. It might be leaving the comfort of established friendships to make new friends. Or identifying and addressing the needs of your physical neighborhood. Or doing what you love with Gospel intentionality. Or a gazillion other creative, innovative, God-inspired moves that partner with God in what He is already doing in the lives of others. These may seem like heroic moves, but they are not. They are normal. This is, after all, what Jesus did.
I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it in the Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14).” He left the comfort of His heavenly home to move into our world. He left His exalted place to enter into our neighborhood and display the glory of God. He invites all of us to live like He did. My small steps are just that: small. Not insignificant. But small. I think God delights to increase my joy as I join Him in His kingdom work. I anticipate challenges and victories; highs and lows. But I know that the One who calls us is eternally faithful.