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I had a revelation the other day that we've been in Charlottesville for seven-and-a-half years now. As many of you know, in 2008 we moved here from Texas to plant a church, and all of the sudden it's 2016, and we're still here, and wow! Time has flown. My kids, practically babies at the time we moved, are seven-and-a-half years older. My marriage, young and unchallenged at the time we moved, is seven-and-a-half years more sharpened and tested. And of course, I am seven-and-a-half years older, and the wear and tear of church planting is starting to show. All this to say, our lives, in these seven-and-a-half years, have been forever changed, very much for the better. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
When I realized it's been seven-and-a-half years, that felt significant to me, primarily because we were at our church in Texas for exactly seven-and-a-half years as well. This year has felt like a time of transition for me, and recognizing that the time frame is what it is, I felt as if God somehow has been releasing me. No, we don't have plans to move or have a baby; it's nothing like that. We'll keep on with what we've been doing in this community that we've grown to love so much. It's just that I have felt God releasing me into the next seven-and-a-half years and pointedly asking me, "How will you be faithful in these years?"
In my Bible reading, I've been following the Israelites through their exodus from Egypt and their wandering in the desert. About the time that I felt God releasing me, I finished the book of Deuteronomy and stood with the younger generation on the precipice of the Promised Land. That moment described exactly how I've felt. I feel that God, like Moses did in front of his people, has asked me to look back and name His abundant faithfulness to me over these years. And then I feel that He's turned my attention forward, to a new time and a new sense of calling.
Again, nothing much is different on the outside. But a lot of work and listening and reflection is going on in my inside as I look back and I look forward. The theme of it all, I'm finding is that God has seen me all along.
You see, I've been a little afraid to let go of the past years. I feel a sense of excitement about the next seven-and-a-half years but also, if you want to know the truth, a little twinge of fear. What if the things I hope for these years--fruitfulness from all the labor--is not what God plans to do? What if my greatest fears come to fruition? The What If list is pretty long in my head.
But a part of me is afraid to let go because, in these past years, I've been so clear about my calling: to help my husband plant our church. That calling is actually what I sense God releasing me from. My work is done. The church is planted. Of course I'm still very much involved in our church, but I know that God is giving me freedom to step back and figure out what I'm specifically gifted for and called to do. It's all very exciting, but at the same time uncomfortable and uncertain.
Uncomfortable, because I'm afraid I will be forgotten, that the work I did will be forgotten. Sometimes I selfishly and pridefully want to make sure that people know what I've done, how I've sacrificed, and how I've helped. (It is painful to write that out loud.) I know it, too, because I find myself getting angry or off-put when others obviously don't understand what church planting has meant for me.
I've talked about this with God, mainly because He keeps bringing it up. He's releasing me and yet I'm gripping tight a self-important identity and a need to be honored by others.
As I've followed the Israelites through the Old Testament, I can't deny that it was God who did the work. He fought for His people. He led His people. He was faithful to His people. I also can't deny that He is a God who sees. He heard their private cries. He listened when they were grieved. He took note of their faithfulness. He honored His faithful ones.
God has been so good to convict me concerning my grip on self-importance and desire for appreciation, and He's been even better to quietly remind me that He's seen it all. It doesn't matter a lick if other people have seen anything or acknowledge anything, because He's seen every little thing and He's been pleased by whatever faithfulness I've shown.
That same truth is helping me move forward through uncertainty, and enabling me to embrace the next seven-and-a-half years as a new opportunity. He will see it all, and it will please Him as I walk and work by faith.
I say this to all of us, because so many of you are laboring in obscurity. You are doing unseen and unglamorous work in the name of our God. Sometimes it feels as if what you're doing doesn't matter to anyone at all. But can I tell you what's true? God sees you, and He is pleased.