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As a pastor’s family, we usually moved every three or four years. We never felt quite like we were home until we returned to the Oklahoma City area. Despite the emotions of having to disappoint people and leave relationships we had built, it was just a way of life for us.
However, when we had kids, things changed somewhat. I will never forget when we moved back to Oklahoma after ten years in Texas. My oldest had just turned three, and my younger son was only three months old. We were so excited to finally be moving home to the Promised Land where we had left our hearts! Our captivity in a foreign land (sorry, Texans!) had ended!
When we knew that the move was inevitable, I began to prepare my three year old. We visited our new home in Oklahoma, and I talked with excitement about his new house. I encouraged him to look at his new room and talked about how we could decorate it. We talked incessantly about his new church and his new school. With as much excitement as I could muster, I told him how excited we were about his new life.
Finally, moving day arrived. As everything was being loaded in trucks, I found my son sitting sullenly on the front porch. He finally came inside as the movers were packing up the master bedroom. Blake turned to me with an inquisitive look.
“You mean you are coming with me?” he asked.
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That’s when it hit me. All of my attempts at building excitement in my precious child had failed miserably! While I talked non-stop about “his” new home, I never mentioned that his mom, dad, and baby brother were coming with him! I guess he thought that because we had a new baby, he was being replaced. He was moving to this wonderful—but foreign to him—land to live on his own!
My heart broke as I realized how much pain and stress my son had been under. Of course, I wrapped him up in my arms reassuring him that we would never leave him alone, that we were a family moving together. I apologized profusely for putting him through so much anxiety.
I felt like such a miserable failure as a mother!
Fortunately, Blake survived my parenting blunder. Today, he is secure in his relationship with me. He knows that I love him more than life itself, and that I will always stand with him in support. I am so glad that our parenting mistakes don’t permanently scar our children!
As I reflected on this incident recently, I began to wonder how many of us are like Blake was during that time of our lives. We hear God telling us about the wonderful new adventure he has planned for us. We know that he is the Good Father, and yet we can’t shake the fear that he is going to throw us out on this new adventure alone. We act as if he is sending us away to live on our own without his love and protection. Perhaps, like Blake, we feel as if he is replacing us with someone new.
Life is a constant adventure. We are sent to new places, new environments, new situations. Maybe it’s a new job. Maybe it’s a new city. Maybe it’s a new church. Maybe it’s a new ministry. Maybe it’s a new season of life because of death or divorce or whatever life may send our way. Our new adventures can be good starting points or difficult circumstances. They can lead to amazing growth or incredible pain. They can be anticipated and prepared for or take us completely by surprise.
But, we can always count on our Father to be with us.
Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm… Genesis 48:15-16
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As Jacob (Israel) lay on his death bed, he reflected on God’s faithfulness. Through the nightmare with his brother Esau, God was with him. During the years of working for his Uncle Laban, God watched over him. God comforted him through the loss of his precious wife, Rachel. God sustained him through the loss of his son, Joseph. No matter what life threw at him, Jacob recognized that God had been with him.
Jacob recognized that God had shepherded him every single day. As a shepherd watches over his sheep, fighting off all dangers that might seek to harm those in his care, God was there. He was always ready to fight the battles for Jacob, protecting him from harm. And, as the sheep know the shepherd’s voice and follow him, Jacob learned to know his Father’s voice. He learned to follow him wherever he might lead.
And God redeemed him from all harm. When hardships and pain came his way, God used those trials. He didn’t let the trial go to waste; he changed Jacob. He changed his heart. He changed his outlook on life. He became personal and real, not just the God of his ancestors, but his loving, personal guide and protector in this life.
And, when his life came to an end, he brought redemption full circle. His son, whom he thought he had lost years before, was restored to him. He went to his grave not only with his son by his side, but also with his grandsons.
Isn’t that the way God is? He always walks with us through the painful trials of our lives. Even more, he always repays us for the pain we have experienced, giving us blessings that abound. He redeems every experience, using it for our good and his glory—if we let him.
Just like a loving parent would never send her child away to a new home alone, God will never leave us. He will lead us to new places, out of our comfort zone. He may allow testing and trials into our lives. He will stretch us, prune us, challenge us. But he will never send us away from his presence. Wherever life leads us, he will go before us, beside us, behind us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39