Most of you know that my faith is very important to me. And that I've long been an involved member of my church. I've recently shared a bit - that I've had some struggles in my church and why those problems haven't caused me to leave.
For the sake of authenticity and honesty - We have now left our church.
The specific details of *why* we were struggling are not what is important. Every individual and every family has different reasons for leaving a church. It's a personal thing.
Here's what does matter.
This was not a decision that we made quickly or took lightly. We've spent weeks and months in prayer. I have sought spiritual guidance. I spoke with my pastor, with a trusted mentor.
But here's the amazing thing... God was in control of all of it. Yes, there was hurt and discomfort and confusion and concerns. But things have happened that have shown me that all of it is in His hands.
One of the main things that happened was I joined an online Bible study through Proverbs31. The study is on the book "What Happens When Women Walk In Faith" by Lysa TerKeurst. I didn't sign up for the study because I thought it would have something to do with our church situation. I signed up for it because I enjoy Bible study, I was taking a break from my church and I wanted a study to keep myself plugged in. I'd never done an online study but I do like Lysa TerKeurst and the idea of a study focused on "Trusting God Takes You To Amazing Places" sounded good to me!
All I knew when I ordered the book and signed up for the study was that it would be geared toward finding your dreams in God's plan and that was about it.
Imagine my surprise when I get the book and start reading it and the very first section is titled...
Time to pay attention.
Now, in the weeks leading up to this study, I'd been getting things from God. I'd been asking questions and listening and while I wasn't clearly being told it was time to leave our church of 11 years... God was showing me that things were being put in place.
And then this study happened. And in the first week, it blew my mind and opened things up and showed me something that I knew was coming but was still like being hit smack in my heart and soul.
Some of the things in these early chapters that spoke to me first had to convince me that the thing I had to leave behind was my church. This is certainly not what the book says to do! What you need to leave is completely dependent on where you are right now and what is holding you back from living more fully in Christ.
On page 24, Lysa writes "Leaving is usually an act of obedience and not a desire of the heart."
Then Lysa wrote about people in the Bible who were called to leave in order to best serve God. Like Abraham and the Disciples. Leave your homeland. Leave your family. Leave what you know and love. Leave where you are comfortable.
Another thing Lysa wrote: "I don't need to know where I am going. I need to know who I am following."
For the past few years, my faith journey has been focused on doing what God calls me to do. Without hesitation or question. I won't say I'm always good at it. But I had become pretty comfortable at listening and obeying. Ask to pray for people? Done. Give that guy the $5 in my purse? Done. Give a large amount of money to someone specific? Sure thing. Donate to this organization? You got it. Go feed and care for some homeless people? No problem. Call that friend or reach out to this person? Easy.
Easy. He'd stretched me to "easy." It wasn't easy when I started to listen and obey. I still questioned and pushed back and tried to make things be about my schedule or my time. But I've become more trusting, more open. Even when it means doing the right thing in circumstances that will lead to hard consequences. But sometimes that's just part of it - His plan and His purpose.
What hit me over the head was the realization that I was limiting my faith.
And I had to go through these difficulties in order to figure out that I was following my church more than I was following my God. And if God had just said - "leave your church," I really don't think I would have heard Him. My faith was in my church, my faith was in what I was hearing and experiencing and was fully placed in where it had become "easy."
But He needed it to be hard in order to push me from the nest.
(This is long but even the first 5-10 minutes get the idea across)
And I came to a hard realization.
My faith was not where I thought it was. My faith was not as strong as that of Abraham or the Disciples. My faith needed to go to a deeper step and God needed me to step out in faith - needed me to not just be obedient but to also have "blind faith" and trust simply in Him. To know who I was following, even if I didn't know where I was going. Which reminded me of a conversation with a friend and mentor who told me that sometimes we don't hear God because He needs us to take action and then He can correct us if we've gone the wrong way. That was the first step in understanding this blind faith that God was asking of me.
So yes - it's been a hard many months. A hard many weeks. And a very hard decision to come to.
But Jeff and I both know that by trusting God and leaving, we are ready to begin seeking His purpose for our lives. We're seeing that He has intention for us as a family unit and not just each of us as individuals. Now that we've figured out that all of this is in His plan, things are starting to flow and open up and while I still have a lot of sadness about leaving my church home... I'm honestly getting excited about where He will lead us.
Faith is a journey. It isn't a final destination. It isn't a decision you just make and it's done. It's continual change and growth and deepening.
Here's what I know I can say right now. Right now, we're focused on finding our next church. Jeff and I are focused on staying connected with people that we have chosen to leave (people that we see on Facebook and at church - some of those relationships are now going to grow!). I'm continuing to work through this Bible study (if you opt to do an online Bible study in the future, I highly recommend signing up to be in a Facebook small group - that's been awesome so far!). God is giving me important tools and reminders in this study.
Are you in a period of being unsettled? Are you seeking something? Are you truly relying on God to lead you and answer you? Are you taking time to listen?