I struggle with vulnerability.
There are a few reasons why that’s the case, but mostly it’s pride and the desire to be seen as better than I really am.
I don’t know who might read this but I’m going to pretend that we’re the oldest and dearest of friends and rip my mask off for you. Even if it hurts.
God has called me to Paducah and my BFF, Haley, to Lexington. That’s the fact, as much as I hate it sometimes.
Haley and I went to the Send Conference in Nashville this week and since leaving her (and Nash) it’s been a struggle to be content in all areas. Like the whole area of not having friends my own age in Paducah.
FIRST off, I want to make it 100% clear that I love Paducah and I adore the community of faith God has placed me in. There is no where I would rather be. Sometimes (all the time) I just wish Haley lived here too. I’m saying this because I don’t want anyone reading this to assume I’m ready to leave my church and move to Lexington or anywhere else. To believe that would be a fundamental error and would cause you to miss the whole point of this blog.
Now that we’re clear on that.
I took several things away from the Send Conference (these are in no particular order):
- Russell Moore makes me want to be a better American.
- It stirred in my heart even more of a love for Paducah and a desire for this community to be reached with the Gospel, while increasing the burden for my small group girls not to waste their lives.
- It revealed (again) the incredible gift of friendship with people your own age pursuing the same things.
Spending every second with Haley and almost as much time with her friend, Taylor, was an enormous blessing.
Although this weekend was the first time I met him, I love Taylor. And of course I love Haley. We all melted and meshed together so well and it all happened so quickly and naturally I didn’t have time to think about how we would all be scattered 48 hours later. I didn’t have time to guard myself or protect my heart from the pain loneliness and separation would bring.
And, wow, did it bring the big guns this time.
I always miss Haley when we’re not together but usually I am so great with being alone and by myself. I’m good at that and, really, I quite enjoy it.
So what made this time different? I think it had something to do with not seeing her except once this summer, but also maybe something to do with the dynamic Taylor added. Maybe it’s because he’s funny and thoughtful and loves coffee and pancakes and sausage links and doesn’t mind sharing his ice cream, but primarily it’s because he was another likeminded friend.
And then I had to say goodbye. To both of them.
And I cried.
So many tears.
Am I just a ridiculous puddle of emotion? Sometimes. But I think it was that I got a glimpse of what I could have (multiple friends my own age), and because I wasn’t guarded I was hit by the pain of what was and what could be, but what God has seen fit to withhold right now.
As I’ve been writing and vocalizing this inner struggle, I’ve been thinking about the principle seen through all of Scripture: God gathers to scatter.
Even the 12 disciples.
For three years they weren’t just with Jesus but with each other and, yes, there were some silly arguments and petty drama (like pretty much asking Jesus to pick His favorites), but there had to have been deep, deep friendship there. Their hearts had been knit together by Christ Himself, through ministry, miracles, life, love, death, sorrow, betrayal, joy.
And then Jesus dies.
Sorrow and agony unite them tighter.
They look to each other for comfort and assurance.
Jesus’ tomb is empty.
They look to each other again.
What has happened? “He has risen just as He said.”
A spark of hope.
He returns to them.
Hugs and tears.
Rejoicing over the resurrection binds their hearts closer.
Yesterday’s sorrow eclipsed by His presence.
Forty days together.
A new normal.
They go with Him as He appears to hundreds.
The Kingdom of God is preached.
“Wait for power.”
They wait, together.
Tongues of fire.
Boldness and repentance.
All together, breaking bread.
Big family, glad hearts.
Peter and John arrested.
They’re released and reunited.
Have everything in common.
Many signs and wonders done.
The Gospel proclaimed.
Many feared The Name.
Cloaks off, stones thrown.
S C A T T E R S.
We might think the disciples/apostles are thrown off by this and that shock might set in. But if they were shocked the Bible doesn’t tell us. They continued on, business as usual, sharing the Gospel, performing miracles and glorifying the risen Savior who promised they would be sent out to be His witnesses in all of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
You can’t go to all of those places if you stay together.
Divide and conquer? Yeah, that was God’s idea.
You see, we serve the God who gathers to scatter.
The Sent One who sends out His disciples (including us).
The One who does not prevent loneliness or sorrow but who is acquainted with it and has promised to be with us through it.
So were the disciples ever lonely? Did James ever miss Peter? Did they all miss their pals? Did Thomas long to be united with Matthew every now and then? Did they hate the separation the scattering brought?
They were human. They had to feel loneliness at times. They had to experience the pangs of separation from their best pals, the ones they did life with practically 24/7 for three years.
But they looked to the great day when with them and millions of others they would be once again gathered. This time not breaking bread in a home but praising the King around His heavenly throne.
Because while God gathers His people to scatter them so that the Gospel may go to all nations and He receive all the glory due His name (Matthew 28:18-20), He will gather us all together again. Eternally. Forever. Never shall we be separated from His love or His family into which He has adopted us.
So, while God has called Haley and I to separate cities, the One who rules the nations with grace and might, who causes the stars to burn and the oceans to fill, is with us, and the Judge of all the earth is good and right in all His ways, including this one.
So if you ever find yourself lonely or missing someone, remember you are in a long line of people who have experienced the same thing and at the front of the line is Jesus Himself, no stranger to the pangs of separation for He was separated from His Father in order to gather us to Himself.
What a Savior.
“We embrace the hand we’ve been dealt because we know the Dealer, and He never deals badly.” -John Piper