The Pain of Change

The moment I have been slightly in denial about for the last several months finally happened this morning.

My pastor’s family loaded up the van and left for their 14 month furlough. Yes, they will be back and, yes, a year seems to pass quicker than one can bat an eyelid, but I know how much a year can change things too. And selfishly I’m sad to say goodbye to my family, because here they are my family and closest friends.

I thought I managed well. The dam of emotions didn’t actually burst until I closed the gate behind them, in hopes of not making their departure any more difficult.

Change can be a pain.

It is that time of year here in the city and at church. Over the next several weeks, we will say goodbye to a lot of individuals and families who have called Kiev and International Christian Assembly home. Some are just leaving for the summer, but others are on to different journeys, whether in America or elsewhere in the world, and there is a possibility that our paths will not cross again.

This is one of the hardest parts of being part of an international community. It constantly challenges you to continue being vulnerable and to continue investing in people knowing that in 6 months or a year those you love and care for and consider your family may leave and go elsewhere.

It hurts to open yourself up to deep, meaningful relationships and then have change occur. It makes us want to self protect, to put up our barriers and maybe even become defensive. I know I’ve done it, even in the past few weeks. I sense the change and the pain and I put my hands out and push away hoping that it will somehow hurt less. God never promised that loving others wouldn’t cause us pain. After all, Jesus suffered excruciating pain so that we could each have a relationship with God the Father.

But there is also excitement in these seasons because growth doesn’t occur without change. 

I love stability and knowing that such and such will happen every week on a certain day at a certain time. I enjoy knowing what to expect and the safety and comfort it brings. But my safety and comfort aren’t supposed to be in schedules. My stability doesn’t come from my knowledge and so I think God finds great joy in mixing things up and making it uncomfortable.

I wish I could say that I lean into time with God and seek Him as much on days that are filled with daisies and sunshine as I do in the days filled with storms and chaos, but I don’t. He is changing us. He is changing me. And it is good, though it makes me squirm and reach out for the comfort of the familiar.

Is God shaking things up in your life? Are there transitions and changes happening that make you uncomfortable? If not, should there be?

The worm crawling on the ground has no idea what it is created to become. It has to go through extensive change to be transformed into the colorful butterfly that bring so much joy and delight.

If God is initiating change then it can only be for good, though our feelings may scream otherwise.

I went through a lot of tissues today and will go through more in the upcoming weeks, but I know that God is working in me and in those I love that are part of my church family at ICA. I trust that He is in control and all things will work out for good and for His glory.

Do you trust the changes that God has brought or is allowing in your life? Will you trust him with the pain and believe that His way is the best?

The Search to be Accepted

When do we get to the age where our identity becomes tangled up in our to do list and our self worth is defined by the amount of items crossed off our paper lists?

When do the thoughtful doodles of our childish fingers lose to the lie that we are not creative or artistic or have time for such nonsense?

At what point do we decide that safety and mediocrity is better than facing failure and our fears hold us back from pursuing anything greater than status quo?

Why does acceptance from others become more important than simply being who we were created to be?

I remember the day I became aware that maybe my artwork wasn’t good enough. I was in kindergarten and we were drawing houses. My teacher pointed out that I had drawn my curtains all wrong and should try to make them more like my friend Kelly’s drawing.

A few years later I had a teacher that insisted that you could only color side to side (the same way you write) and that any scribbling or going out of the lines was completely wrong. It didn’t matter if it was easier to color vertically to get into that awkward corner, it HAD to be side to side. To this day I will automatically correct myself if I start to color in a different direction! What can I say, she was a really frightening lady.

I did what they wanted because I thought I’d be accepted and that seemed more important than being myself.

It is twenty-something years later and I still do the same thing.

__________________

My work is based strongly in communication and relationships. The irony is that people scare the life out of me. My stomach does nervous flips when approaching a stranger to engage them in conversation. Crowds overwhelm me. And more often than not, I would simply prefer to be alone than face the anxiety of bumbling stupidly through smalltalk.

Why? Because too often I forget that we are all simply people, some of us saved by grace and others searching to be. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, our struggles and victories. We glance side to side in comparison and fear instead of listening to the words of our Creator who declares each of us to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

My worth and your worth isn’t found in how many checkmarks we can put onto a scribbled list of expectations, it is found only in Christ (“accepted in the Beloved” Ephesians 1:6).Â

Being unique makes us feel weak and vulnerable unless we are seeing through the eyes of the Father. Without that lens we resort to comparison and bow to intimidation. Without His perspective we cannot see the beauty, only the failure.

He has created you and I with purpose. He offers life abundant and grace that covers a multitude of sins. Isn’t acceptance from the Creator of Heaven and earth more than enough? Therein lies the freedom to be who we uniquely are.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10