I’ll never forget the first time I heard these words:
“Lord, you have called us to abundant life.”
We were at our small group leaders’ home in Towson, Maryland and my new friend Heather (who is now, 15? years later, the “friend of my right hand” – to quote Madeleine L’Engle) was praying for us. Just before beginning to pray she and I and our husband/boyfriend (Andy and I were not yet engaged!) had let out literal belly laughs as we’d remembered our time together the weekend before. The previous Saturday we had attended a fund raising party for a couple in our church that was adopting a child. This party was bananas. Wine and drinks flowed. Music bellowed throughout the beautiful home in northern Baltimore where the party hosts, also members of our church, lived. The food and drink: delicious and overflowing. We all paid $50 to attend in support of the adoption fund and just had a bonkers night on behalf of this wonderful couple that we all knew and loved who wanted to grow their family.
It was one of those nights that you think about for weeks afterwards and which Heather capped so perfectly through her prayer.
“Lord, our Father, you have called us to abundant life.”
Her prayer caused me to pause because after two dozen years in church I had never heard this before. If I had, it certainly hadn’t stuck. Abundant life? That sounds wonderful!
And this is allowed?
I wondered…and then I thought about our weekend. That party was abundant life, FOR SURE. If that’s what a life with the church and a life with the Lord is like, then count me in 10,000 times over and then some.
This is all coming to mind as Andy and I celebrate 10 years on our shared adventure of faith. Last weekend, August 17, was 10 years to the day that Andy packed up our Subaru in Baltimore and headed South to Galveston to start his PhD program. I would follow him a couple of months later after I finished up my duties at work.
Realizing the date over the course of this last week we determined to wake up super early on Saturday morning and have coffee together before our kids woke up, clamoring for breakfast. The past six months haven’t been the easiest as we’ve attended to a newborn and stretched our parenting muscles from one child to two. Lighting a candle in the backyard and enjoying a cup of coffee together while the sun rose was just the simple moment we needed to reflect on what has happened over the past decade and where we hope to go next.
The past ten years have not been easy. Nor, though, have they been utterly devastating. I suppose, if anything, its felt like we’ve been at the spiritual gym, gaining some spiritual resilience. Each of us have let go of things that we needed to loosen our grip on. Both of us have learned bit by bit to tune our hearts and our spirits to the Lord’s call. This process of discernment, we have learned, is almost always asking to be found underneath all the crap that we pile on top of it. Both of us have learned that we don’t have nearly as much control over where our journey will take us as we may have originally wanted.
But all of those lessons had us up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday morning sitting in our backyard (such that it is…picture a cement pad with a table and two chairs looking at neighboring apartments…URBAN LIVING, right?!), with two kids asleep in their room, a candle burning and some coffee…asking for more:
More career question marks that God figures out in his own perfect timing
More dinners with good friends that last far too late into the night
More gatherings around friends and their families at their weddings, where we lift them up in our hearts (and possibly in their chairs!) and remember our own commitments
Maybe, dare I say it, more gatherings around friends and family who are mourning, knowing that we’ll remember for weeks and years how we held vigil, singing for hours, until our beloved brother finally went home. More of this because we know its where we’re all headed. And more of this because it brings us to tears to this day as we think about it and remember, with awe, how a small band of people helped a widow and her family grieve in the most beautiful way we’ve ever seen.
More labor and delivery…of actual humans, sure, should the Lord lead…but also labor and delivery of long held dreams that we’d started to believe would never come to pass until suddenly its time to push and the angels rush the room to help us bring forth the life that we never knew we always wanted.
24 years in church and I never knew it could be like this. Or maybe it just took 24 years of hearing the same things over and over again until the penny finally dropped and we woke up to what those 24 years of inputs actually meant.
It means abundant life in partnership with the living God.
This is, frankly, where we landed on Saturday morning. We’re asking for ten (20, 30, 40?) more years of faithful partnership with each other. Faithful partnership with our kids. Faithful partnership with our church. Faithful partnership to A PLACE. Ultimately, despite our preferences, we want many more years of faithful partnership with the Holy Spirit who will provide the power and resources needed to make a beautiful story out of two people who can, in reality, be more prone to forget that God was the author and inventor of faithful partnerships from the outset.
Reader, can I be honest with you? Most of this stuff is not sexy. Lest I mislead you, be aware that even this powerful morning coffee date between Andy and I required some divine assistance to stay on course. But somehow, as the years pass and we loosen our fingers from things we once held with a death grip, we are finding that there’s room for the spirit of God to do his thing in our lives. And this is just so refreshing.
So, if you’re reading this and your skeptical I say to you simply this:
“Come to the table.”
The table of the Lord is where you’ll find the fine wine every time. You’ll have the best conversations here and you’ll be fed in ways you never imagined you could be fed. Eventually, maybe even 10 years from now, you’ll find that you’ve realized, you simply can’t fathom why you would ever have wanted to leave in the first place.
If you’re reading this and your question is: “Ok, but how?” that can be a longer discussion (so clearly we’ll need more wine!). I may address this in more detail in my next few posts, but I believe that it starts with a moment of humility. It starts in the quiet, just you and God, where you’re finally honest with him. Tell him you don’t know how to find him. Tell him your fears. Tell him what you want. Ask him to show you how to proceed. Ask him to show himself to you in ways you can understand. Readers, I have never, EVER, prayed a prayer of humility and not found him unwilling to sit with me. Answers often come later than I’d like. But presence? This is literally the Holy Spirits job description. Which is ultimately what we all want in this life. To quote a favorite speaker of mine: “the Holy Spirit came to put an end to loneliness.” Yes, more of this please.
10 years ago I believed that God was good like I believed marriage, homeownership and a retirement plan were good. Today, I believe God is good and “for me” in such an ultimate way that anything else he gives me from this point forward is icing on the cake. I feel like I finally know the path I must take to be who I really am. What a fundamental shift. What a gift to loosen the grip on things that do not ultimately satisfy.
You can call me crazy. (Lord knows I often feel crazy.) But I will just never get over this good news. So come sit at the table with me. I am a hot mess most days wondering how we’re going to get all of the things done and who will help me to do it. The reality is that God’s already got the details covered and I’m supposed to keep my eyes on the man at the head of the table. He’s got scars on his hands but he’s not out of business. He’s preparing an epic feast and you’re going to want some of what he’s cooking up.