As my seminary life drew to a close and my future of ministry looming ahead, I sought some advice from Rick, the Spiritual Care Director, to discuss doing an internship of Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE or chaplaincy in Colorado. This would be a huge move for me as I had lived most of my life in Minnesota with all of my family and friends. In my discussion with Rick, we discussed the end of my marriage, leaving family and friends and what a new start looked like for me. He then asked me a profound question, “Are you running from your life in Minnesota or are you running towards life in Colorado? For a few minutes, I was stumped. What kind of question was that? After a few deep breaths, slowly my thoughts came together to answer his question. I had lived most of my life in Minnesota, as a wife, a mom to my daughters, celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, mourning the death of my parents, letting go of a 26-year marriage and finding a new community at the seminary. So was I running from all of those experiences, ignoring any leftover emotional baggage and pain? I looked at him and said no, I was not running from that life because it had made me the person I was. However, I felt like I was running to something new and different. It was time to make a change to find where God was calling me in my next chapter of life. He agreed and admitted that he wanted me to own it and believe it too. I did move to Colorado and then Florida, which changed my life, nurtured my call in ministry and opened my world to sunny skies, great new friends and welcoming church families. Rick’s thoughtful question continues to guide my life’s decisions by taking an intentionally pause before jumping into something new.
This week I was reading in the Book of Exodus, about Moses and the burning bush. It is a familiar story about God calling Moses to lead God’s people out of slavery to the Promised Land. This would fulfill a covenant between God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The covenant promised to give Abraham, descendants, land and blessing. God revealed to Moses the plan to free Israel from their slavery in Egypt and lead them to the “land flowing with mild and honey.” (Ex. 3:8). Their journey was fraught with disobedience, rebellion, frustration, danger and death however God’s guiding presence was always with them. The Old Testament is filled with stories about how God is faithful to the created world. Too often, I believe Christians focus so much on the gospels and the baby Jesus, his life, his death and his resurrection that we lose sight of God’s presence of the past. I know there are many stories in the Old Testament that are hard to grasp especially the stories of wars, killings and sacrifice. Often times these stories appear to be unfair, racist and gender-biased in oh so many ways. It is because of those stories that I want to run full-speed ahead to the gospels. But I think by jumping to quickly to the New Testament we miss God’s faithfulness in the lives of the ancient people. Trust me, when I read about how long it took God to remember Israel’s slavery I have wondered if God was taking a nap during all those years of suffering. The biblical text describes it like this; “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” But here’s the thing, God did remember and showed up to deliver them. God was and is faithful.
So as we ponder the upcoming birth of Jesus, I wonder if Rick’s question can help us in our Advent reflections too? Are we running from the Old Testament, away from the “fall” of humankind, the flood, the wars, wicked kings, threatening prophets, because of the pain and suffering we are trying to forget? Or are we running to the change that brings a faithful God into our world offering grace and truth by way of a baby Jesus lying in a manger? The God from the ancient scriptures is the same God that is here and now, living in the world with us, for us, and offering us the Spirit of love and grace. Reading through the ancient words, we can see that through leaders like Moses, God helped pave the way to the manger and the baby Jesus. We know how the story unfolds on Christmas Eve however as you wait, take some time to pause in your anticipation of the Christ-child and reflect on God’s continued faithfulness and how it changes your life.