Endings are that strange and mystical combination of sorrow punctuated with joy, of hope dancing with nostalgia. Our little family is coming to the end of many things in these coming weeks as we prepare for what is ahead, and within a two-week span, both Michael and I are coming to the end of jobs we have loved and lived for years.
Yesterday was Michael’s last day on staff as a pastor at the church that we have been a part of for nearly eight years. We are moving to a new state so that he can finish his seminary degree, and yesterday we had the gift of preaching (together!) one last time to the church community that has so richly shaped us.
We are thankful. Thankful for fellow believers who have pointed us to Jesus and ministered to us even as we have ministered to them. Thankful for the countless nights of small groups and meetings and prayer times and worship sessions. Thankful for truth spoken to us on wonderful and difficult days. Thankful for weddings and babies and celebrations of many kinds. Thankful for friends who have held us up and counted the cost with us. Thankful for camaraderie in the Kingdom.
But new beginnings cannot come without endings, and yesterday was a day of ending our official ties with that church family. Tears? Yes. Laughter? Yes. Hugs? Most definitely, yes.
And also, expectation. For the first time in my life, I am not terrified of the unknown. Perhaps, for you, change is a wonderful and heady thing. For me, change has always felt gut-wrenching, difficult, gear-grinding tight. I have never loved change; I have usually avoided it.
But in this season where God has invited us to lay down all that we have known and step into something strikingly new, I am filled with hope. I am filled with expectation. I am filled, even, with joy.
I am learning that this joy is the fruit of obedience; joy is the natural response of saying “Yes!” to God.
Jesus talks about this very thing right before he obeys all the way to his death on the cross. He is sharing his heart with his closest friends, here in the hours before his dying:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:9-11
God loves us. He loves us! And when we obey his commands–when we say yes to him–we not only experience his love, but we receive the treasure trove of joy he has to offer.
What kindness! We are broken, sinful, selfish people, and yet when we make the choice to obey God (which is what we should do anyway) he meets us in the place of obedience with love and with joy. Love and joy–the two things our hearts desire perhaps most of all–are found in obedience to God.Love and joy--the two things our hearts desire perhaps most of all--are found in obedience to God. Click To Tweet
And this is the pearl that God is forming in me in this season. As I rub up against the pain of leaving our home and our community for what he is calling us into, I am finding that there is such deep joy in obedience that I hardly know what to do with it. At present, the circumstances we are in are foggy at best: timing, finances and jobs are all up in the air. But I am so hopeful. So expectant. So joy-filled!
As one who used to be so afraid of change, I am surprised to find such tenderness in my heart. I have moments of fear and concern, of course, but I have more moments of joy and delight. And I am thankful. I am thankful that as good things are coming to an end, I know there is deeper joy up ahead–not because of the circumstances, but because Jesus is there.
He is, after all, the pearl of greatest price, the treasure trove of joy himself.
As we obey his call, I am meeting Jesus afresh at every turn. And the joy in him is the greatest gift of all.