It’s funny how in life we often fail to see the beauty that is all around us until it is no longer there. When my family moved to Florida we missed simple things like the beautiful color of the fall leaves, the smell of spring, and the twinkling of the stars on a clear night. Since returning to Michigan, similarly, we find ourselves missing many aspects of life in Florida, things that we had overlooked, things we had taken for granted. In life this is common. It is said that absence makes a heart grow fonder; the same could be said about transition, for it is in transition that we realize how much comfort we find in the familiar and how often we ignore the beauty of the moment.
I’m not the kind of person who spends much time looking at my past. I constantly strive to move forward, to conquer the next challenge, to get to the next step in life. This forward thinking can be both good and bad. The good is found in the fact that I don’t hold on to past hurts, the bad is that I tend to forget the joys of the past. As my family transitions I have found myself doing something I rarely do, pondering the past, and to be honest with you it has been a blast!
For my last Sunday at my church in Florida, I was given the opportunity to give a “farewell” sermon. I struggled with the concept that this was going to be my last official act as a pastor at this church. The idea of LAST was intimidating. My pride caused me to feel pressure to leave with a good performance, something to be remembered by, something that would make me look good. Has this every happened to you? Have you ever had one last opportunity to speak to a group of people and in preparation got prideful? Sin makes us do all kinds of selfish things, but thankfully God didn’t let me hold onto prideful thoughts too long. He quickly reminded me that:
The pulpit is not a place to make a name for yourself, but a place to lift up the Name above all names.
In my desire to be liked, I forgot that I was already loved. Loved by the Father. In remembering how much God loved me I found myself looking at the past two and a half years of life in Florida and how much God had blessed my family and was blown away. It was then that I knew what to share. For my farewell Sunday, I didn’t do an exegetical study of scripture. I didn’t try to encourage people to service. I simply shared the story of my life and how much God has blessed a lowly sinner like me. Below are a few examples of what I shared:
“In March of 2010 my family landed in Florida homeless, unemployed and surrounded by strangers. Within 24 hours God provided us with a home and our first friend. The same home, when listed in a poor market, sold in less than 24 hours for full price and paid for my bachelor’s degree.
We moved to Florida so I could attend Asbury Theological Seminary. God’s plans were different. Instead of Asbury, God provided a scholarship that paid for my Masters degree at a completely different school.
In an oppressed economy God provided work that cared for my family.
Because of His provisions, over the past two and a half years my family has been able to serve Him in Haiti, Romania, New Orleans, and Casselberry.
We came to Florida homeless, surrounded by strangers, and as we leave Florida, once again we are homeless, but this time, instead of being friendless and alone, we are surrounded by our family, people we love and are eternally grateful for.”
In looking back over this short period of time, I saw beauty in areas of my life that, when in the process of living through them, seemed to be filled with more hardships than blessings. In transition our perspective changes. In looking back we realize that God’s plans may not make sense in the moment, but ultimately His plans are perfect and are there to grow us in faith. In this short period of time God has stretched me to a point where I thought I would break, and because of this I have been tempered by fire and my faith has grown.
As we walk through each day, the big picture is often unseen. But as we reflect on our life we can see that God’s picture is bigger than we could have ever imagined and the painter of this masterpiece we call life, is still creating this image with His strong and steady hand, stroke by stroke, minute by minute.
May I never forget the blessings of the past or the lessons learned in the fire.
1 Peter 1:6-7
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”