The Sacred Nature of Leaving (Part 1)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18, Mark 10, Matthew 19)

I’ve come to discover that leaving is a sacred thing.  It has an inherent power to it, which is what makes it so awful most of the time.  It is the sacred things in life that seem to radiate with their own power and influence as if they were created with a sense of life within themselves.  This is what makes them so glorious when handled in purity and so damning when pursued in selfishness.  We understand this with the common norms that we hold sacred: faith, marriage, children, sexuality, influence, resources, citizenship, justice, etc.  I’ve come to the conclusion that leaving belongs on this list.

When Emily and I made the decision to plant a church in Atlanta we really had no clue what we were really getting ourselves into.  I mean, we still don’t, but we definitely didn’t know the magnitude of our own decisions.  We had left places before; we weren’t expecting this to be wildly different.  I remember being a Senior in High School dreaming of the day I finally left Idaho Falls for Los Angeles.  I remember leaving LIFE to go into YWAM.  I remember leaving Thailand to come back to the United States.  I remember leaving YWAM to get married.  I remember leaving both of our families to go back to Los Angeles to graduate from LIFE.  I remember leaving LIFE to go to Taiwan.  I remember leaving Taiwan to move to Mill Creek.  There were hard moments in all of these decisions, but the vivid excitement of our new home washed over the hurt.  There were people we loved and didn’t want to leave, but the call of a new people filled our hearts.

So why would this be different?  We weren’t totally naïve. Mill Creek has been the longest home we have ever had.  Six years does something to a heart that six months can’t touch.  This is the first time I’ve lived by my brother since I was 11.  This is the culmination of years of dreams of pastoring a people.  This is the birthplace of our children, which is an experience that can’t be understood prior to its existence in your life.  This is the place where for the first time I’ve given my life to love like Jesus without thinking about the inevidable next.  We loved without the thought of leaving, and as I type that I realize that really was the difference.  Because this has been different.  It’s been at times like a gunshot right in the heart.

So in the midst of the pain created in our decision to answer our spiritual ache, I’ve turned my heart to Jesus.  Sometimes my heart is just silent before Him and sometimes it’s asking Him to be close.  Sometimes I’m looking for Him to tell me that I didn’t make a mistake and sometimes I’m wishing I did even though we both know I haven’t.  And as I’m with Him I’ve been drawn to this promise that there is something sacred that happens for those who leave for the sake of the Gospel.  As if there are things alive in this decision that are beyond the control of the one deciding.  There are times I’ve read this promise over my life and felt selfish, wondering if I’m reading it just to believe I’m part of an elite promise reserved for the better.  But as I’ve asked that honest question of my heart the answer keeps coming back as no.  I’m reading it because in the midst of leaving I’m begging Jesus that something is going to happen that is going to make the pain worth it.  My pain.  My friends’ pain.  Please Jesus tell me that it isn’t just right, but it’s worth it.

And I can’t escape that in the presence of Jesus’ words it is.

Part 2 Coming Tomorrow…

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One thought on “The Sacred Nature of Leaving (Part 1)

  1. Ed Nieves says:

    Well written, Phil. I am going to miss you guys so much but I am thankful we live in an age of instant communications for the times we can’t be there, and airplanes for the times when we can 🙂
    I am also comforted by how immensely proud I am of you and the family, heeding God’s call to pick up stakes and serve, miles away from what has become your comfort zone.

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