When we moved back home this summer, after 18 years away to plant a church I thought I’d done the grieving I had needed to do. I thought I’d embraced change. We even had the Pinterest-inspired art up in our house to prove it: a subway sign with all the street names we’ve lived on since we were married 13 years ago. It wouldn’t be such a big deal to add just one more name. After all, we’ve moved across countries and oceans. What was any different about this time?
But after the adrenaline of the move wore off, I felt itchy. Something just wasn’t quite right. It was more than just adding another street name to our home décor. Moving jobs and cities was more than a matter of miles; it upended who I thought I was. I walked around in a daze, questions on the edge of my thoughts:
Where was I? How could this place be my home? And how was I going to learn to be happy here? How could I embrace this change?
When my story is more loose ends than neat narrative, I remind myself of the ancient, true, and fabulous story of grace. That an almighty God entered into our finitude and messy dishes. That Jesus walked along dirt roads and saw the pain, the beauty, and the glory all rolled up together in humanity. That after feasting, feeding, healing, and teaching, He went right into the heart of pain and died a death reserved for traitors.
But here is what gets my heart beating faster: on the third day, when hope too had died, He rose again. Even death came untrue. Like a symphony, I imagine that joy spilled out of the empty tomb in waves; it rolled with a laughter flowing from the heart of creation itself. I imagine the tender words He spoke to His followers as they realized with a shock of surprise that sadness, disease, and even death itself had come undone.
And so, even now, as a Christ follower I get to participate in daily deaths and resurrections. It’s part of becoming more like Jesus. Sometimes change feels like joy and laughter rolling in uncontainable containers, and they spill out leaving flowers in our wake. But sometimes, embracing change looks and feels like death.
This move has meant the death of those little idols I turned to instead of Jesus to find my worth. Daily, I have to choose to lean into this pain of change, knowing that there is resurrection on the other side. My desire for a neatly tied-up story has been left hanging raggedly open. But the gift of faith has meant holding on to those separate strands with open hands and mouthing, “Not my will, but Yours.”
It has meant staying present in the pain and not making myself too busy so that I don’t feel the pain anymore. Embracing change means that I grieve. I fight to stay present, so I can see where God is leading me right here and right now. Why, you might wonder, stay in this unfinished part of the story? Why lean in to pain when you can run or distract yourself? What is the point?
The point is this: all the distractions do not bring me closer to life; they are just numbing agents on the way to death. But death — whether of bodies or dreams — does not get the final say. And beautifully, Jesus is marvelously close in the dying of my own selfish dreams. When I’ve held tight-fistedly to control, I never knew that His words of delight and surprise would also be a benediction over me: “See, I am making all things new!”
So I invite you to unclench your hands with me. Sit in the pain of unknowing with the ragged ends of your story loose in your hands. Let us pray for the gift of faith — to press in to Jesus, so that one day we might see how all the ends are tied up into a story more beautiful than we could even imagine.
For we know the age-old story: death descends into the glorious, surprising burst of resurrection.