God had some work to do in me. In us. And the processing that we began on that trip to Boone was the beginning of what I think God was looking for from us. We asked God for wisdom, and for a WORD. We told Him to get our hearts where they needed to be. We basically put ourselves on the chopping block in a way that we hadn’t before. This was a deep work – down in the depths of everything we were, and this season required it.
As we began to navigate through these waters over the Christmas holiday, God took me to Isaiah 33:6, and gave it to me to cling to as the verse that would wave over us like a banner as we walked through this crucible. It says,
“He will be the sure foundation for your times;
A rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge.
The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
Well, it was wisdom and knowledge that we needed. And it was fearing the Lord in the sense that we weren’t as open as God needed us to be that kicked us into higher gear seeking His plan for our lives. And at that point, our own plans seemed so futile.
Christmas was good (despite both Angela and Lily Kate having the flu, and me wandering aimlessly everywhere we went with a blankness that I can only call weird). I was strangely emotional through Christmas. Angela had been emotional, too. It felt like grief. Everything would be fine in the moments that we were immersed in the Word and prayer. But many times we would be awakened at night or caught off guard during the day with a deep sadness or state of panic. Each time we went to the Lord, these feelings would subside. And we were honest with each other about our feelings all along this journey. This stretch of time was even more proof that I have the most amazing wife ever. Good grief...her perception and wisdom and evenness. Our hearts were so unified in sizing up where we were, and what we needed to do to navigate through the next few phases of this journey. Granted, I don't think at that point she totally saw what was coming (neither did I), but we were on the same page, which was all that mattered to me. I knew (or, thought I knew) that all of this was about the Lord growing us in areas that we needed growth in, and not so much about us picking up and moving to Jackson ( I find it funny when we presume what God’s work might be…when we put words in His mouth. Funny.).
As time passed over the holidays, I felt like my heart was going to explode. Not good and not bad. Just so very intense. I kept asking God for His easy yoke and light burden. I would get relief in moments, but for the most part I was obsessed with thoughts of possibilities. I stayed in the Word more than I had in so long. Just looking for Him...and listening for His voice. A strange thing happened during this period of 3 or 4 days. My heart began making a shift. And I gotta say, it literally felt like a huge ship turning around and heading a new direction. As I began to ponder the possibilities, the thought of NOT taking this call began to feel more heartbreaking than the thought of leaving Franklin. I don't know why. I just began to feel compelled to take up this call.
I wasn't fearful of losing anything about my ministry as it was. I saw in the physical realm how it could all fit together in a great way, and was thankful that Pastor Ben was embracing the things that I am already doing in kingdom work. God tells us that our boundaries fall in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6), so I didn't have any hesitation about that stuff. And as I began to think along the lines of the 'how's' and the 'what's', my thoughts began to change from broad stroked questions and feelings to specific things...like dreaming of pastoring a choir again...leading a team of other worship leaders...raising up the next generation of worship leaders...jumping into a college community and leading those kids through those 4 (or 5 or 6) years of their life and sending them out closer to God than when they arrived...investing in a community and dreaming with a pastor of crazybrave things to do for the glory of God in that community that was ready to dive in.
Still, I was a mess, and needed to get a grip in the worst way.
Angela and I continued to talk about it over our travels. And Ben and I continued to talk too. We thought it might be a good idea to get the four of us together just for a visit. No big discussions or anything. Just to get to know one another. The best time seemed to be New Year's Eve. So, Ben and his wife Lynley left their 4 kids with her parents in Arkansas where they had been for Christmas, and came to spend New Year’s Eve with us.
So, they arrived at our house late afternoon on New Year's Eve. We played games and ate and did nothing much. We all rang in the new year together. It was a fun night. Lynley and I completely dominated Ben and Angela in Sequence. No surprise there. The girls went to bed and Ben and I stayed up until 3:30 or so, talking about ministry, vision and a bunch of 'what if's'. We got on our knees and prayed for God to make Himself clear.
The next morning we all got up and enjoyed a slow morning. At some point while we were in the kitchen making breakfast, Ben began to ask Angela some personal questions about this possibility. It was a good moment, but also hard. He asked things that of course Angela and I had talked about together, but it was a hard moment because it was the first time we had talked about how this possible move would affect us to anyone else. Angela is so grounded and so wise. I am the touchy-feely ball of emotion, and she is the discerning, practical, wise side of us. She asked him questions too. We got to hear his story about how he came to be the pastor of this big church as a 29 year old who had never pastored before.
As the morning ended, I was conflicted. I was happy that we had all talked openly about possibilities and dreams. And I was happy that Angela seemed to have a light spirit about it. But at the same time, I felt down. It seemed like there were so many questions and obstacles, that the chance of it happening was minimal at best. By this point in the story, I had already begun dreaming of leading this people. So with all the questions flooding in, I was pretty sad. But ultimately I trusted God, and was just anxious to get to the answer.
Lunch time came around, and that meant it was time for them to hit the road. They had plans to go to the Cool Springs mall and shop for a while before they left. So we decided we would follow them there and have lunch with them before they shopped. As they were packing up to leave, Angela and I asked if we could pray for them and and for their travels. So we huddled up in our den, with our kids lined up on the couch taking in all in.
Then it happened. Prayer happened.