The last few months I’ve had multiple variations on the same dream. I’m with my family in a brand new home, that I absolutely love. We’re mostly settled in, but there are still a few unpacked boxes laying around. I’m either walking around admiring new closets, or a spacious kitchen when suddenly, something feels wrong. My mind flashes to another home--still filled with furniture, food, and clothing--sitting empty of the Barber family, on the other side of town. I start to panic and question John about the old house. “Did we forget to sell it?” I ask. “Are some other people living there now?” He looks at me like I’m crazy, as I try to reconcile the images beginning to swirl inside my brain. “We were just living there yesterday,” I tell him. I don’t even remember packing anything!” I close my eyes and see everyone back at the other house, as if I’ve awoken in some alternate dimension and can’t find my way back to the right one. When I finally wake up it takes me a minute to remember my current house and swallow the terror in my throat as I realize it was only a dream. At first I thought the dream was due to everyday anxieties, like forgetting to make a mortgage payment, or some latent buyer's remorse; but yesterday I began to wonder if it had more to do with going to a new church.
Bridge Church has been operational for nearly five months now, and while I’ve loved getting to know this new family, and blessed by our worship every Sunday, there’s a part of my heart that’s still searching for Providence week after week. While it’s true that I still see many of my friends from there, and my kids still go to student meetings or the occasional big event, the fact is that we’re in a new place now, and my heart is still adjusting to the change.
Since my Dad was a pastor when I was growing up, and the longest we ever stayed anywhere was four years, I’ve left behind lots of churches over the years. And ninety-nine percent of the time, I had no say in the matter. But this time, I did. My husband and I took nearly two years to make it, and I still believe it was the right decision, but that doesn't mean it's been easy.
Whether it's as complicated as learning to live without someone you love, or as simple as remembering to take a new pill every day, change is hard. We all know this, and we all try our best to be prepared whenever we see it coming, but in the thick of it, we often wish we could just go back to the way things used to be. When we knew what to expect week after week, when we didn't have so many questions about the future. When we weren't always trying to figure out how to make the most of these new realities.
Since 2012, I've been writing a book about grief. I didn't know that's what I was writing about at first, but a couple of years ago I realized that's what this book wanted to be about, more than any other theme I'd tried to press into it over the years. I started out writing a book about my life growing up, as a pastor's kid who moved around a lot, and ended up with a book about all the losses I've experienced since then. From dead dogs to miscarriages to kids leaving for college, life sometimes feels like a series of losses.
In John chapter ten, Jesus tells his disciples that he came so they could have real life, more and better than they ever dreamed of. Is that still true for me today, I wonder, over two thousand years later? If I call myself one of his followers. If I believe Christ was the actual son of God, a man who physically lived on earth for thirty-three years near the beginning of the Common Era. If I claim he still exists for infinity, then what he says must be true, whether or not I feel like it, right? God help me to believe the truth, even when I can't see.
For all that I see, and taste and touch, or even smell and hear, is not everything there is out there, in this great wide universe. It's not even close. My experience of the world is so limited, so veiled and dark that I dare not trust in it alone. And this is why I write, to remind myself of the bigger world, the bigger truths that are beyond my own experience. Because my life is only one small wave in an entire ocean of water, and no matter how big and powerful it sometimes feels, the shore on which it lands still turns it into foam, as a million more waves follow.
If your heart is feeling tossed about today, whether it's because of a recent change or that same old storm that never seems to stop, may you take comfort in knowing that yours isn't the only heart lost at sea. I pray you make it safely to that great beach of home someday, where the sand is smoother than a lover's skin, and the sun is just as warm.