I love change. I like to be on the front end of new and fresh things. But there's always a part of change that's difficult. Moving to Chicago from California was tough because my roots were deep. And the primary ways that I experience God are through activism, relationships, and nature. I got ripped out of all three. I didn't have a job. My kids were starting school. I had no friends. And to this California girl, Chicago is not a hotbed of nature.
I told my husband, John, "I can't find God here." And his immediate response was, "Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we should move back."
I said, "No. I don't think this is a problem we need to fix. I think I just need to live with a part of change that's hard."
My experience has been that the difficult parts of change are most often where God lives. I learn a little in the easy things, but the deep epicenter change, where foundations and paradigms shift in my soul, happens when my life is hard. I become aware not just of my need for God, but what I really believe about him. All the things that I glibly say, in change I have to live out.
If I push through, on the other side of change is something deeper, richer, and more purified.
Most of us, though, cling to the safe side and go kicking and screaming into change. We fight it instead of moving into it quietly with an assuredness that not only is God on the other side but new facets of him that we have heretofore not understood are also there.
Change includes loss. And any loss that we experience moves our hearts closer to surrender. It prepares the soil and softens the heart to get it ready for the new seed God needs to put in there.
I discovered that truth almost a decade later when my family and I moved back to California. Even though I was going back "home," I was still starting over. It took me a year to make good, close friends. I had to start a whole new job. My kids were in a different place in their lives and didn't really need me as much. But through all that, I felt an increasing awareness of the goodness and richness I found in God in Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised that the same good God who lives in Chicago lives in California.
God is everywhere and he's good; I don't have to be afraid. My life slowly began to recapture that. I gradually realized, Oh, life's good here, too, and there are people to serve and love, and difficult situations to work through.
We have to grow in our ability to trust that there's nowhere in the world we can turn where God is not. And that goodness is going to be waiting for me in that new place, because God's there. But it will take time.
Much of my life has been about change and much of it has also been a journey to understand that God is good. If he's not, nothing else matters. Our obedience and his holiness are outcomes of his goodness. Dallas Willard says that an acid test of any theology is: Is there a good God at the center? If there's not, we've gone the wrong way.
Whatever the change—whether it's the death of a loved one, a job loss, a move across country, becoming an empty nester—if we allow ourselves to push through the difficult parts, we'll discover that God is there too, and he is good. Entirely, wonderfully, amazingly good.
Nancy Ortberg is the author of Looking for God (Tyndale) and is a founding partner of TeamWorx2, a business and leadership consulting firm.
Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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