As I walked through a building that was once so familiar I had a sudden hit of what I can only describe as saudades. This is a Brazilian word that literally means a longing of the heart. We don’t really have a word for it in English but for me it’s the kind of feeling as though your heart is being squeezed.
Had I made the right choice? Picking up and leaving the only family I’d really known for 15 years?
Doubts coursed through me – Was I too hasty? Did God really speak to me? Was that a hint of regret I was feeling? Could I have ended things better? Did I hurt people?
This is a difficult post to write. Facing our deepest thoughts often is.
It’s been a year in the making and the journey has been incredible.
A young boy asked me recently ‘Why did you leave church?’ his directness took me aback a little bit but it was refreshing. I wish I had the innocent honesty of a child to ask the questions I fear asking directly.
The only way I could describe the why was to say ‘Well when we learn things it’s like we’re being fed and I needed to learn some different things and try some different food.’
The heart squeeze I felt over a year after moving on I realized was the end of the leaving, the closure. It was the full stop to my chapter.
God shook the doubts in my mind and replaced them with a thought in Genesis when the serpent says to Adam and Eve ‘Did God really say?’. I felt the still small voice that affirmed His decision on my life.
My only regret, the distance from family that had once been a little closer.
Last September I started a course at an Evening College in London, it was titled ‘Ministry School Advanced’ I felt way out of my depth even looking at an ‘advanced’ level anything but this was another life changing moment that God had planned in the transition. A new world suddenly opened up. I began learning about the Bible, for real! It began living. I soaked up this goodness that was being taught and found myself excited to share it with others.
Late night conversations returning home would often begin with ‘Guess what I learnt today..’ Even passengers on the train home weren’t safe from the conversations and debates that over-spilled from class.
I was experiencing the love of God, in a different form.
I thought at one point this new phase of my life started a year ago, but I’ve begun to realise it was before that. On returning from Nigeria I was talking to a friend about how I was feeling so unsettled with everything. I didn’t have much of an interest in picking up things that I’d done before I left. I didn’t feel like I fit anymore. I felt like God had me waiting on something.
Even in my testimony before going to Africa I had mentioned how I’d become uncomfortably comfortable in church. A comfort that induced laziness and no necessity to really go anywhere or do anything outside the building.
The turning point was when I headed to a conference that housed over 20,000 people from all different walks of life and church backgrounds. As I sat and re experienced the love of God, of a father who cared for me and wanted so much more for me I began thinking dangerous thoughts.
What if I wasn’t in the right place? What if there was a move coming – and that didn’t mean a move abroad? What if it was a move closer to heart and home?
Was I really brave enough to allow God to lead me where my trust was without borders?
I let this simmer over the summer as I sought after what God was trying to tell me, I truly left that conference fired up to change the world but as the embers faded and I returned to ‘normal’ life I became desperately hungry for the teaching I had experienced.
I prayed God would confirm what I dared to think in my heart. He did.
That walk away would be one of the most honest, hard and awkward things I had ever done. But I wasn’t alone. He carried me through.
I prayed as I wrote my resignation ‘Lord, if this is meant to be, let me find the words.’ A final ‘fleece’ of confirmation was pulled from under me as the words flew onto the screen.
I was apprehensive about the fall-out, the repercussions and the questions. I was beginning to feel the weight I had pinned on what others thought about me and not anchored in what God knew about me.
It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t a neat little happy ending, but then what endings are?
I remember at the time a friend saying ‘there’s always a way back.’ While I appreciated the love in the comment, I knew in my heart that back wasn’t a way I was going.
It puts me in mind of a song:
‘I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my soul is undone.’
That’s the only way I can describe what I was feeling. When I entered the building of what is now my new church I was hit with a massive sign at the front that simply stated. ‘Welcome Home.’
In those moments it didn’t feel like home yet, but the idea of being at home struck deep. Gradually church felt smaller, I began seeing familiar faces in the 2,000 strong first service congregation. When I finally felt called to join a team I realized I could no longer wander into the building and choose to be invisible, I couldn’t claim to be an invited guest anymore.
I had been caught in the headlights of love and now it was my turn to reach out and gather others into the house.
That squeeze of the heart I felt walking through the door of my old church wasn’t a feeling of what if, I realized within these walls throughout the week the body of the church, the beloved of Christ meets. It didn’t matter so much that we didn’t worship in the same building. We still belonged to God, we are still all a part of this massive dysfunctional family that Jesus makes functional for the glory of God.
So this is a post to say – It is well with my soul.