Just One Phone Call

Early on we began preparing our children for change, to hold on loosely to the familiar and to trust God for their future. This reality was just a part of our normal conversation. When the opportunity presented itself naturally we would remind our girls that “It only takes one phone call…” and we may move to a different church, a different state or a different country. We didn’t bring up the topic as a threat or something to fear, but rather as an opportunity to teach the attributes of a submissive heart, to embrace God’s will and to trust His direction for each of our lives.

My home church operated under a ‘call’ system for placing their senior pastors. There was communication between the applicant and the church followed by a ‘sample sermon’ for the whole congregation to give their input on. That was my normal. It wasn't until early in my adult years that I was introduced to the itinerant system of ministry. Under this system there is a governing authority – whether an individual or a group – who have the ultimate power to decide when and where an individual will serve as pastor. My husband lived under this system during his childhood, but about the time we got married a transition was taking place. A modified itinerant model became the new norm giving a voice to the pastor and the church leadership in the midst of these life-changing assignments. For that I am grateful. How appointments are made, however, isn’t nearly as important as navigating the inevitable transition - for both the pastor and his family. Sooner or later, a change in location and ministry will happen.

What is crazy to me is that my husband and I planted our roots at our current church over 30 years ago. Yes, 30 years! That is mind boggling. Did we plan it that way? No. Did we ever think we would move? At times. Did we purposefully put down roots early on? Yes. But, we were very intentional in preparing our children for a potential move. As the years went by, we continued to try to build within them the ability to be flexible in their expectations and to trust God to guide our family, and their lives individually, each and every day. We embraced 1 Timothy 1:7 which reminds us that “God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.” (NLV) We didn’t need to panic every time the phone rang or we received an ‘official document’ in the mail. Instead, we could all learn to daily put our trust in God and live in His power.

Encouraging our children to dream about the future was just one way we tried to help them process what a transition could look like.
  • We would still be a family.
  • They would still go to school.
  • We would still be involved in our local church body.
  • They would still be able to enjoy their hobbies and sports.
  • We would still take vacations.
  • They would still have friends - old and new.
  • Our pets would come with us.
  • God would still be God!

What would change was the building in which we slept and ate. Now, that doesn’t sound too scary, does it? The fear of the unknown can cripple our imagination if we are not careful. We are often our own worst enemy by trying to hold onto the familiar instead of allowing God to be God. All households face unexpected change, but often those changes don’t require a move from home, church and neighborhood.

Gently preparing our children and grandchildren – not to mention our own hearts – to expect the ‘unexpected’ helps us more fully embrace and trust in our gracious and all-powerful God. It is a heart attitude as well as something we must think through and process over time. The dialogue is healthy and faith-building for all families regardless of whether or not a change is on the immediate horizon.

Most recently, a healthy conversation took place with one of my grandsons. His eyes betrayed his surprise and confusion when I tossed out a new idea to him. I reminded him that he had cousins who lived thousands of miles away and that I often visited them for a week at a time. As his wheels began to spin, it became obvious that this grandson had never considered what it would be like to have me stay at his house for a week. In fact, I think it was a rather strange and foreign idea to him! After all, this sweet grandson had always been able to stop by our house at a moment’s notice. What would his future look like the day we moved out of our house to follow God’s next chapter for our lives? How would our future affect his day-to-day life? We don’t have all those answers, but we do know that we can trust our Almighty God to bring it all together for His glory – and to the benefit of all those we love.

All it takes is one phone call to shake our world! Are you ready? What preparations are you making within your heart to willingly follow God’s call? Are you intentionally laying a foundation of faith - not fear - for your family? Are you willing to follow Abraham’s example and follow God wherever He may lead?

"Go from your country, your people and your father's household 
to the land I will show you. 
So, Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” 
Genesis 12:1 & 4


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