My family and I have just completed a major move. We left the small town in Indiana where I have served as a pastor for more than 10 years and gone to live in London, where I am serving as the Senior Pastor of the American International Church. My husband and I are ecstatic. We love urban life and can’t wait to enjoy London. Our sense of adventure has moved us all over the U.S., and we look forward to learning a new environment.
My son, however, is nine years old. He has never lived anywhere but here. His friends, his church, his school, his bedroom, his baseball buddies—they are all in this place. He has never known life and belonging in another place, and he doubts it might be possible. My husband and I believe that this move to London will open many doors for him and make his world much, much bigger. From his perspective, though, the only world he has ever known is being taken from him.
His sadness and fear is normal, and we are parenting him through it with lots of conversations, hugs, memory-making and promises of Skype conversations and Xbox games online with his friends back in the States. He is excited about many things in London, even through his uncertainty.
I keep hearing a quote from Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann running through my mind: “The world for which you have so carefully prepared is gradually being taken away from you, by the grace of God.” (This is from a lecture I heard years ago. I have searched in vain for a reference to it in print.)
As parents, our worlds are bigger than those of our children. Sometimes, offering them a bigger, bolder, more beautiful world requires taking away the familiar patterns they know, even though it is painful. We know that, even though it is tough right now, the world our son will discover in London is going to be rich and wonderful.
Perhaps that is true of God as well. Perhaps the slow slipping away of the worlds we set up for ourselves are also God’s beckoning us into a new, more wondrous world of grace. Like I hope my son trusts his parents, there are times when I must simply trust God that a new world is possible out there, that the beloved patterns, places and practices that are slipping away will be replaced by something new and even more beloved. We don’t know what God knows. Our world is too small to imagine all that is possible. We must simply trust that God is there, waiting, with grace upon grace.
Queen Elizabeth II quotes a story about faith, quoted from a poet by her father, King George VI, in his radio broadcast on Christmas Day in 1939. It was a time when the world they had known was slipping away, and peace and stability vanished.
I said to a man who stood at the Gate of the Year
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”