On May 29 I wrote the following:
Tomorrow we leave the oasis of my parent’s home and drive toward a question mark painted in black on the horizon of my mind. I think the children sense it too. They aren’t sleeping, although they are exhausted, and I am suddenly filled with anxiety over the possibility of arriving to a church full of strangers with children so disoriented by time zones and travel and unfamiliarity that I can hardly recognize them, let alone discipline them.
These are the honest feelings I had as we drove toward what I envisioned to be a month of awkward meetings and lonely evenings and long days of entertaining children without my seminary community for back-up. It was a wonderful opportunity for my husband – a chance to preach ten sermons in five Sundays, to open up and explore a chunk of scripture over several weeks to a real congregation instead of a single sermon to a room full of fellow seminarians. I had no doubt that the experience was a wonderful provision from the Lord, I just know that sometimes wonderful opportunities to learn come in uncomfortable packages, if you know what I mean.
I have often been wrong in my life. This is one stunningly spectacular example.
I don’t really know how to explain to you the feeling of comfort I had from our second Sunday in the church, almost as if I had worshipped with them before and was coming home after an absence. Relationships came easily, and meetings were natural. Laughter was common and invitations frequent. Far from lonely evenings, we found ourselves double booked more than once and not in those obligatory “let’s entertain the visiting student” sort of meetings, but honest gatherings like birthday parties and regularly scheduled dominoes games.Even in those moments of necessary discipline, when the children – not from lack of sleep, or disorientation, but from the rebellion of their hearts – required correction, I felt the comfort of doing so in a community of supportive friends, not under the gaze of strangers.
It was a shock to see that the month had passed and we were preparing for the final Sunday and saying goodbyes we had not anticipated grieving. I found myself echoing the prayer of Mike, one of the elders, during that last evening service. He thanked the Lord for a good month, and then stopped and just said, “You are a good God.” It was, exactly, the cry of my heart. This month would have been an answer to prayer and a wonderful experience even if my anxieties had been true; but it was so much more, and so much better, than I had ever really hoped to pray.