Transition times are always a bit rocky, aren’t they? And it’s seems I’m coming up to yet another. I believe God is calling me from Bristol to Seattle this autumn. Maybe I’ll get a bit more into the whys an wherefores in another post, but suffice it to say, it’s not exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been trying to make a decision about where to go next for months now. Then just about when I started thinking I really wanted to stay in Bristol, I felt God telling me pretty decisively that it’s actually time to leave.
So here we are again. Another move. Another round of goodbyes. Another city I’ve never been to. These last couple of weeks have been really, really hard. I’ve cried a lot. My poor friends are probably tired of weepy Allison, asking for prayer over and over. But this crazy thing happens every time I’m in one of these periods – every time I’m doing something really hard for God. I remember why I’m a Christian.
During these hard times I question why I’m even doing this. I’m trading in a place and people that I’ve really come to love for a place I’ve never been and almost certain loneliness (at least for a time). Why? I could not do it. There are a million ways I could wiggle out of it. I could say it’s a calling “for sometime in the future” and stick around Bristol for a bit longer. Or I could just choose to do what I want (God would still love me anyway). Or I could give up on God altogether – He’s asking more than I can give. So many options. Why do I put myself through it? Why do I keep following Him when it’s so painful sometimes? Am I even sure enough that He exists to keep giving so much up for His sake? So many questions. I’ve tried all the obvious answers on myself. For example, “But the good outweighs the bad by SO MUCH!” (Which is entirely true: on the whole I have a completely amazing life. But lots of people have amazing lives, and they don’t have to give them up when they don’t want to.) Or, “But it’s true. Whether you like it or not, you believe it’s true.” (True most of the time, but harder to convince myself of when I’m feeling sad. And every once in a while I catch a glimpse of Christianity from an outsider’s perspective and realize, let’s be honest, we sound a little bit nuts.) But when I stop to really think about it, I always come to the same answer, and it gets clearer every time. Peter admonishes us to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3: 15). So here’s mine.
All I have to do is look outside. Look at a flower or a tree or feel the wind on my face. That’s all it takes and I remember how absolutely, dizzyingly, breathtakingly beautiful life is. It’s fascinating on every level, from the physics and math that underpin the universe to the perfection of a flower to the way the wind sounds in the trees. When I stop and consider what’s actually happening in literally any natural scene, my heart aches with it. And if there is even the most remote possibility that what Christianity claims is true and all of it was created intentionally by someone, then I must know that someone. Because a mind that could conceive all of that, could imagine it and weave it together so perfectly is…there’s not even a word. I’ll just sit at his feet and hero worship.
But Christianity doesn’t leave it there. It doesn’t just claim that there is a God. It claims he wants a relationship with me. And if there’s even a tiny chance that THAT is true, then I would consider a life chasing that relationship a life extremely well-spent. Even if it turned out it was all false. Even if I got to the end of my life and died, and found out that I was wrong (not that I would know, if there isn’t a God), I would still consider my life spent on a worthwhile pursuit. Because the chance to personally know, to be friends with, the Author of creation – that’s beyond a dream come true. I genuinely can’t understand why everyone doesn’t want that. The chance to know love Himself. To be friends with life Himself. And, almost inconceivably (if you actually think about it), I believe that I am, little by little, getting to know Him.
In John 6, Jesus says some things that are hard to swallow and many of his followers leave. Then he asks his apostles (the twelve) if they’ll leave him as well, and they reply, “Where else would we go?” And that’s how I feel. If it comes right down to it, where else would I go? If I did decide this was too big an ask, what would I do? There isn’t a satisfying answer. Turning my back on what I know is God’s will for me would be like cutting out a piece of myself and leaving it behind. Once you come to know God’s voice and recognize His truth and get a glimpse of His heart, you can’t just walk away. Even when it gets hard, it would be harder to tear yourself from Him. If you’ve seen in color, you don’t want to go back to black and white just because some colors aren’t very pretty.
I’m not naive about my faith. I’m not just in it because that’s how I grew up. I used to be, but not anymore. I know what it costs. And every time there’s a new crossroads I have to decide all over again whether this is what I really want. And every time I choose Him because He is worth everything. Because it would be actual insanity to separate myself from the AUTHOR OF LIFE who also happens to care deeply and personally about me. And if I truly believe all of this about Him, that He’s so big and so beautiful and so loving, then I have every reason to be hopeful. So, hard as it may be, there’s really only one thing left to do.
Seattle, here I come!