As we sat in LifeGroup last night, the question was asked, “Where were you five years ago?” It took me a half of a second to remember. Five years ago was one of the biggest spiritual markers of my life…of my family’s life. At our church we are always challenging our people to put their “YES” on the table to whatever God is speaking to their life. We could not challenge them to do that never having had that significant moment in our own life of saying “YES” to doing whatever it takes. Little did we know five years ago that God was asking us to take one of the biggest leaps of faith we’ve ever taken.
I’ve told our story so many times, and so many times I’ve thought, “I wish it were different…I wish I didn’t have to include the part about being hurt.” For me, though, that is the story. The walking through a valley of hurt and difficulty was not the way I would have chosen, but five years ago, that’s where I found myself – hurt and feeling more alone than I’ve ever felt, but with a heart pounding with fear, relief, hope and great expectancy. You see, the past doesn’t define me. It used to, but now it motivates me. It motivates me because I will always remember and in my remembering I will choose not to make it about me, but remember that the pain of five years ago was always meant to show me how to love others.
It was actually six years ago that our family found ourselves leaving a place we had served for three years. A place where we saw God move, and He allowed us to be a part of it. A place that I wish had ended differently, but it ended defined by pain. That pain left me wanting to run, leave, go far, far away! God said “NO!” He made it clear to me through the murky waters of hurt that sure, it might be hard to stay, but it also just might be the greatest joy of my life to try and stay. He reminded me He had called us to a community, not only to a church. He called us to the faces I would pass everyday that were lost. He reminded me I wasn’t looking at them when I thought about my pain…I was looking at me. He reminded me to see heaven or hell in their eyes. He reminded me that hurt people hurt people, and I was the chief offender. He reminded me that in our brokenness, He is our strength…and so, I said, “Yes, Lord.” I walked hand in hand with my husband into a territory I had actually grown up in, but yet found so very intimidating…church planting. Recently, I saw a pastor post on my dad’s facebook ,“Why do we need more churches? We ought to fill up the ones we have!” We do need new churches…because NEW churches reach NEW people.”If we keep doing what we’ve always done, then we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten.” Again, the faces of the people I passed everyday that I knew were not going to church anywhere, they were why we were called here. They are why we said, “YES”. And we found ourselves in the throws of planting a church, first meeting in our home with 14 people, to meeting in an old western store storefront with 90, to finding ourselves faced again with the question, “Will you say ‘yes’?” A year after we planted LifeSong, God was asking us to merge with the old church on the hill on the main highway running through our town. “Seriously, Lord?” I can’t say my “YES” was very audible. I did NOT want to merge with another church. I had associated pain and hurt with the way this church looked. I was NOT going back into that! Ever have times in your life your ears are clogged? Thankfully, this was not one of those times for me. I heard God loud and clear, and His answer was as consistent as it’s always been…”Say ‘YES’ to me!” And, so we did, and we’ve never regretted it. Saying “YES” to God through the good times and through the bad times is NEVER the wrong decision. How do I know?
This past Sunday, we celebrated five years of being a merged church, making us LifeSong Lyman. We heard stories of how God brought people from those earliest days, to even recently, and all of the stories said the same…they all said “YES” to God. Some came disillusioned with church, some never having stepped foot in a church, some had heard about the mission and wanted to join in and some found healing from the moment they walked through the doors. The ones who found healing share my story. We may have been healed from different things. For me, it was a wounded heart, and for them it has been drug addiction, gossiping, alcoholism, lying, broken relationships, etc. The thing that binds us is that in every.single.circumstance, GOD has been our story! He has been our “YES”!
As we shared in LifeGroup last night, one of our partners shared her favorite moment from a video we shared Sunday (which I hope to post later). She talked about the moment the camera panned to a sign that you will see above our doors as you leave, you will see, “Go Be Missionaries Where You Live, Work and Play.” She has been with LifeSong from day one and said that moment reminded her of when we were meeting in the old storefront and we had hung a paper sign at the door that expressed those exact, same words. She shared how it struck her the change in the way the sign now looks to how it did before, but what had not changed was the message of the sign. The mission for us here at LifeSong NEVER changes. It is always the same. We are to be the missionary where we live, work and play everywhere we go. We do that by always being ready to tell our story. I hesitate to tell mine because no one likes to hear about pain and hurt, but hey…it’s my story. I don’t live in it anymore. I am better because of it. I run to the hurt person that walks through our doors now because God gave me a story that I could identify with them when they come. I share my story because take away all of the circumstances surrounding it, and I’m left with God. He’s always been with me. He never, ever left me. So, I celebrate five years at LifeSong because God saw fit to let me walk through the valley so I can now basque in the glory of watch hundreds of people make God their story. Five years ago began one of the greatest journeys of my life. The next five years are His to make even GREATER! Greater things are yet to come in this city.