When you can’t go back and you can’t stay here

A year ago, if you asked me how I was doing and I told you “good,” I was probably lying. I’ve gotten pretty good at giving a standard answer in case the person asking doesn’t really care or we don’t have time to really get deep. “Good” is the safest answer. “Okay” is the word I use when things are not really okay, and I just can’t bring myself to say “good.”

If you asked me today how I’m doing, I would tell you “good,” and I would mean it.

We’re soon celebrating a year in our new community, and though we had high hopes for what this change would mean for our family, the reality is, I think, better than we even expected. When for years we were merely surviving, we now find ourselves thriving.

And that, my friends, is a really big deal.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know some of what I’m referring to. If you’re new here, might I suggest the following posts to catch you up on why saying “Life is good” is so monumental:

Let me be clear: Life is good. It is not perfect. Do not confuse the two.

And because life is good, I’m starting to think more permanently about our location. This is almost unheard of for me. When we moved here, my husband was more certain than me that we could be here for a while. I, on the other hand, was sure it would be temporary. Let me give you some background.

I lived in one town my whole life until I went to college, and college showed me, literally, how big the world was. I never thought I’d go back to my hometown after college, and when that became the only option, I was sure I wouldn’t stay long. I ended up working for my hometown newspaper for 7 years. That’s no lifetime commitment but for a 20-something who thought she’d move on, it was a long time.

Our next stop, after we were married, we knew was temporary. We thought it would be 18 months to two years, but it turned out to be closer to one year. Then it was a move 800 miles across the country for seminary, which we planned to be a three-year commitment at the school, maybe less than that in the community if we were placed in a church. We ended up staying five years in that town before moving here last summer.

The idea that we might stay put for a long time is new to me. I don’t plan for that to happen, even when it does.

But now things are different. We love this community. Our daughter is in a great school. Our church family is wonderful. This has been a good year for us. (And let me say this now: we have no plans to move on right now. This is not a good-bye/major announcement kind of post!)

And because of those things, I let myself dream a little last week. I shopped for houses online. There’s one for sale practically next door to our pastor’s family, so out of curiosity, I stalked it and other houses in the school district “just to see what’s out there.” (Not to worry, friends. We are not planning to move into the neighborhood at this time.)

Then I read something in the Bible that has had me thinking for days. You can find it in Exodus 15 and 16, about the Israelite and their journey out of captivity. This part of the story begins when they’ve been three days without water in the wilderness. (You’ve been there, right? I have.)

And then they find water and it’s bitter. Been there, too. Then Moses throws a stick in the water and it becomes sweet. It’s like a foretaste of what God has planned. Finally they come to Elim. It’s like an oasis. There are 12 springs of water and 70 date palms and they camped there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo by Colin Stobbart/freeimages.com

This describes our family’s journey thus far. We were dry as sand, then we were bitter, there was a tiny bit of sweet and then what seemed like paradise! I’d call our current situation Elim right now. It is refreshing and overflowing with good things. I want to camp here and settle and put down roots and enjoy this time forever and ever, amen.

But it’s possible, likely even, that this is not our final destination.

Because the Israelites had to leave Elim and head into another wilderness where God continued to provide (manna and quail, anyone?) and show his glory. They were bound for the Promised Land, and Elim was not it.

Part of me wishes that we’ll be able to somehow stay here in our current position for a very long time. It’s healthy and stable and refreshing and we are thriving in ways we’ve never known. But I don’t think that’s what God has for us. At least not in the sense that life will never be hard or dry or difficult or uncertain again.

Let me say this, too: I don’t believe God toys with us. I don’t think He leads us to good places and then out of those good places for no reason. He is not cruel. The Israelites could have stayed in Elim but it was meant as a place of rest, not the place He prepared for them.

I have no earthly idea what this looks like for our family. I just know that this may be God’s way of preparing me for what’s to come. It might be tomorrow or next year or five years from now. It might mean we leave this city, this county, this state. Or it might mean that we stay but we face challenges. I don’t know. But I’m going to try not to worry or fear tomorrow.

Today, life is good. And I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts and trust that it’s the refreshment we need for the journey to come.

I don’t know where you’re at in your journey. We’re all in different places. If you’re like us and are in what seems like a good place, will you consider that at some point, God may lead you out of that toward an even better place? And if you’re in a dry place, I speak from experience, even if it’s hard for you to believe it now: He is leading you to water.

Not long after Elim, the Israelites are grumbling again about how much better life was when they were slaves in Egypt. We shake our heads at their foolishness sometimes but I remember how there have been times in my life when, like the Israelites, I wanted to go back to Egypt and captivity and slavery because the leaving was too hard.

This song helped me through that.

And when we got married, we played this song at our wedding, never imagining how much we’d go through before even getting to the Jordan. (That happens much later in the Israelites’ story. We thought we were there already when we left our hometown.

We’re on a journey, and it’s harder than we thought but it’s not all bad. And I think that’s what I forget about the Israelites’ wanderings. There were good times, too.

Wherever we’re at right now, whether life is good or not at all good, let’s keep moving and trust that by following God we’re heading in the right direction.

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2 thoughts on “When you can’t go back and you can’t stay here

  1. Pingback: Take your time with this one: Review of Restless by Jennie Allen | Living Echoes

  2. Pingback: What if what I want is right in front of me? | Living Echoes

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