on promises + new chapters
The word went out this week that the founding pastor of my church, Rob Bell, has decided to leave and pursue new incarnations of his calling to share the love of Jesus with the world. He was to speak about this new development this morning and accordingly, I went to church with a somewhat heavy heart.
I found my sadness mingled with multiple reasons: sadness at Rob’s impending departure; sadness that my dear friend Cassie, who had been my Sunday morning church companion, recently moved to Spain; sadness that everywhere I looked, I saw couples even as I felt overwhelmed with loneliness.
It was a simple enough service. Rob walked us through his story, what brought him to his decision, and what would happen to our church community in this new and unexpected season. His voice, in its typical generosity and openness, was cloaked with tears and soon enough, I felt my own join in. My eyes welled up with tears and soon overflowed; I wept through most of the service.
At first, I felt silly. I don’t know Rob personally and wasn’t sure why I seemed to be taking this so intimately into my chest. As he spoke of the conviction he felt about this change in his life, I began to understand my tears.
This has been my story, too. I have lived that chapter. I too have looked fearfully into the face of a huge leap that God has asked me to take and shakily said “yes”. I too have looked potential failure in the eyes and jumped anyway, even when I knew there was a good chance I would end up on my face.
As I sat there, weeping, I felt so overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness that I nearly couldn’t breathe. This story of mine, not just in my recent season, but in them all, is a living testament to the redemptive rhythm of Jesus, to the constant love of a God whose faithfulness is so much bigger than I ever could have expected. I felt grateful for that love in a way that pounded through my bones and rendered me speechless.
In that moment, I felt deeply the blessing of my church community and the joy it is to be a part of the Mars Hill family. Even in our grief and flood of emotions, I could feel every person in that packed room of thousands bind together in love that lifted up Rob and his family; the love that is only possible because we truly believe that God is always with us and is always, always up to something.
As we sang the benediction, I found I could barely get the words out. I suddenly felt an arm wrap tightly around my shoulders and I looked to see the woman two seats down from me, someone I don’t know, embracing me, hard and fast. In that one small moment, I felt affirmed and allowed to be where I was: collapsed on my knees in front of the empty tomb, weeping with joy and gratefulness that the One who was inside had risen, just as He said; weeping that I am loved by One who keeps His promises. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
As I process through the myriad of emotions coursing through me this morning, I wish nothing but the fullness of God’s blessing and guidance to Rob and his family. We, the Mars Hill family, are here for you, believing in you, and will continue to write a story of redemption and transformation that Jesus showed us, empowers us to, and creates inside of us each day.
Grace and peace, brother.
[photo credit here]