Last week I shared just a little bit about the fears that we go through as parents who have lost a child even now 5 years later and I’m sure for many years to come. But today I wanted to share about the overwhelming joys that have come because of being chosen to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. A friend just commented on Facebook… “how can you stand having so much joy around you all the time?” referring to a photo of my 4 crazy kiddos, to which I replied “Because the Lord has carved out deep wells for the Joy to pour into and because of His abundance it is more than even those wells can contain and spills out to all those around my family!” It’s true. I think I breathe in the air of life a little…. no a lot…. deeper each day because I know what it’s like to want to close your eyes and not wake up. I get to look at each of my children’s faces and marvel that they are mine and that their stories are intrinsically linked to my sons short little life. That today… I’m still being changed and reaping the blessings from being carried through that very difficult yet amazing time in my life.
You see, Asher’s life was exactly the length as the Creator intended. Scripture says that He has numbered each of our days. At the same time Asher never would have died were it not for a fallen world of disease and sickness and sin. I can grieve that I live in an imperfect world that seemingly deals us with crushing blows left and right. I hate Death… I loathe Cancer… I despise Marital unfaithfulness… I’m crushed at the brokenness in families… I weep for tragedies such as Sandy Hook… I’m heartbroken over abortion, rape and abuse…. I was and I know many others are brought to a halt when our lives are suddenly changed because of something and it was something they NEVER would have planned on happening to them. So Yes, I grieved for the change of plans I had for my first pregnancy and dreams of my firstborn son but I not only buried my son that August but thankfully I also buried a vision of what my life was going to look like. And my friends, that was one of the most amazing things God has ever equipped me to do. When you throw out the fallen plans that you made that are laying at your feet in shambles what you’ll find is really what YOU thought was going to be a masterpiece was really just the mere clearing and initial groundwork for HIS masterpiece. When you look back, you’re going to see, what you had in mind when you planned it all out is just a fraction of the life you were meant to live as you trust in His plans!
This week marks the death of another vision. Dan and I have been so blessed to have been apart of a small church plant here in Fort Worth. Dan worked with the planting pastor and became close friends with him. We visited once and loved the close knit community we experienced and knew that having been a part of church plants in years past that we might really be able to be used here as well as poured into as a family. At that time we hadn’t even jumped into fully our African adoption adventure. Little did we know the love and support and excitement this family of believers would shower upon us. Later when we would ask the pastor… “are we crazy for doing this?” “two?” We could almost hear his smile over the phone as he said… “God is Leading you….YES Two!!!, We serve a BIG God and He is at work here!!”
We loved this small body of believers. They were very raw and real. Some of them had just had their eyes opened to Christ and some have known Him but had walked away and were just now coming back to the church after years of hurt and hiding. Some left their churches where they were known and felt safe to be spent and poured out into the lives of those they didn’t yet even know. Some just heard God’s leading to go to Fort Worth and plant a church and so they just did. It was hard…. It was beautiful… It was frustrating… It was energizing… It was special….. It was church!!!
But this week will be the last week of this church’s existence. Yes… Commons church is closing it’s doors. It’s been a hard few months as those who are a part of this church have gone through the process of knowing it was time to leave, knowing they had to stay, fighting to keep it going, learning to let go and also to deal with the hurt and pain that comes with the brokenness and disappointments of the way we hope and pray things go to the strange and bittersweet acceptance of what God is clearly allowing and even ordaining to happen. You see, much like a baby… a church is something that NO BODY wants to ever see fade away. It’s just WRONG. It seems senseless and tragic even. In a perfect world…. no it wouldn’t ever happen. But that’s just it. we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen sinful world…. a world where we often don’t understand why things happen the way they do.
But God. Don’t you just LOVE those two words…. BUT GOD. This isn’t outside His plans. He’s not shaken by the shutting down of this church anymore than He was shaken by the passing away of my son. Does He care? Oh yes, and He’s right there carrying those of us through our heartache and our shattering of future plans and hurt feelings and feelings of emptiness that are making us wonder…. “what now?”. We can’t see the future… but our Amazing Savior is already there. All throughout scripture we read about how often God had a Different kind of plan than people thought and were even working towards. Nations, peoples, kingdoms, armies, families, firstborns, and yes… even the Man who many came to love and call friend, teacher, master…. their stories took abrupt turns “for the worse” that had those involved writhing in pain, wanting to give up, begging for mercy, despising those who they thought were in charge, fighting for survival, shaking their fists at heaven, and weeping to have this cup of suffering pass them by. Those experiences were real and were very painful and even involved a lot of death and hearts that were left crushed. Fast Forward thousands of years later and we read those stories not as ones full of twists and losses and pain but as these moments in time that make up the Greatest Story of Hope and Celebration of All Time!!!! A story that gives us Life and Joy! Today we are so grateful for the sacrifices many… and ultimately One made for us despite the pain and loss they had to experience. Because it brought us new life. It brought us to God.
We are still a part of a story that’s being written. And the same God that we trust with our past failures and our life in eternity, is still the One we must trust with the fighting, the surviving, the writhing and yes, even the dying.
I look at my life right now and 5 years ago I couldn’t imagine the life that God would be writing for me and that one of the things I would be so grateful for today is the privilege to have loved a little boy for those 9 months and 9 minutes.
I wonder if 5 years from now…. 15…. 50 years from now there will be a lot of us living out a life that has far exceeded our own plans because of an unprepared imperfect yet vision filled obedient church planter and those who caught his vision and lived out their faith and loved as a community for those 3 years? Will there be a strong marriage and future generations of Believers where there might have been a single mom and a baby daddy who died while being trapped in a gang? Will there be an engineer who though only in high school now, because he found Christ at this church changes not only the physical drought in Africa but the Spiritual drought as well? Will there be kids who grow up hearing the story of Jesus from their grandma enabling future generations to be freed from satanic stongholds? Will there be a spreading of families who don’t even realize that there are lost people who need Christ, children’s spouses to be met, and best friends to be found, and families to love in Aledo, Abiline, Austin, Houston, Kansas City, Alabama…. and Worldwide, where before they perhaps would have stayed comfortable or felt tied down in Fort Worth. Will there be fires lit for a knowledge of what people really believe in that when studied in depth fuels their passion to live fully a life dedicated to loving their Savior? Will there be future leaders that emerge because of a teacher who taught for just a few semesters who go on to change the world for the sake of our God? Will there be other churches in Fort Worth who gain members who know how to love those who are hurting and know how to selflessly serve and pour out? Will there be MANY more people in heaven because of the impact of just a few families who worshipped and did life together for a speck of time? I think so.
It feels like a tragedy right now. Feelings are hurt, Wounds open, Visions Dying, Blaming and Questioning… “how could this have been avoided?”….Disappointment in the situation, in people, in friendships. Feeling drained and not quite sure you even want to meet another church family or pour out onto anyone else. Asking yourself, what was the point of the past few years? Thinking “I feel left behind”. Shaking your head because what a tragedy…. another church plant bites the dust. And I wish I could tell you that your next church will be better; that it will provide you with all the answers; that you should be careful before jumping on board with someone else’s passionate crazy vision for God, that staying home each sunday will fill the void and will keep you safe from feeling hurt again; that you should just come to my church and you’ll love it. I won’t tell you any of that because it’s not true. You see, it’s only the clarity of trusting God that allows us to weather the storms and lingering fog that life throws at us. His word has a way of burning right through the unknown and showing you that while you may not know what the next step may be you’re just going to listen to Him and take it in faith and let Him use you in the ways He deems best. Because that my friend is going to have you looking back on all this and smiling at how little you knew about how Big and involved our God truly was in it all. That you were privileged to have been a part of something so little yet so great.
It takes time to heal. It takes time to feel the impact even. You have to really feel the ache in order to fully feel the Comforter. But I know just as sure as I know that my son’s life was short, much shorter than hoped and prayed for yes… but boy, did he unexpectedly change the course of my life and point many hearts to Christ, So shall the Commons Church be!!