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  • The Gift of Leaving, by Grace Ann Rothwell

                I have moved a lot.

                I have lived in two countries, seven states, and twelve different houses.

                One could say I have a knack for moving. (Granted, most of these moves saw me strapped into a car seat or running up and down the empty halls and bedrooms of our new place looking for intriguing nooks and crannies.) It was a life I was born into (thank you, United States Army) and that for the longest time I thought was totally normal. It wasn’t until I was nine and we lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, a place that had no military base, that I realized most of the other kids—audible gasp—had lived in that same city their whole lives.

                The first time I felt friction in a move, rather than indifference or a little bit of excitement, was the year following this revelation. My parents were splitting up and I got a little choked up as I told my friends Ivy and Megan that I would not be back at Baker-Butler next year to finish out elementary school with them. That was the first time I got the feeling that sometimes moving actually kind of stinks.

                I think often God loves us best in ways we might not consider all that loving. And I write this as gently as I can muster—I believe it’s because our human concept of the height and width and depth of His love for us is so small. It’s because we cannot see His Big Picture that He has known and crafted from the dawn of eternity past. Every detail of our lives, from the inconsequential to the colossal, He has fashioned for His glory and our good. And sometimes, this mysterious love comes in the form of us being uprooted.

                I’ve been dwelling on our Exodus series during and in between large groups. God literally ushered His people out of Egypt to save them from their ongoing suffering and death at the hands of the Egyptians—a significant rescue that pointed to an even greater eternal delivery. We have the beautiful gift of the Bible, and we can read and see all that God has done for His people. But we know firsthand how hard it is to trust when we have no inkling of the final outcome, and the Israelites were no different. They passed through the Red Sea, safely, unharmed, and shortly thereafter they began to wish they were back in Egypt, where at least they had a place to sleep, at least they knew when their meals would be and what they would have to eat.

                Now, I would imagine most of our situations are not as extreme as leaving slavery behind for the desert. But many of us will leave or have left behind hard things only to come to different hard things. And in the midst of uncertainty, new people, new place, new everything—the same thing that was true for the Israelites is true for us. “I am the Lord your God,” Exodus 20:2 says. Again, in Isaiah 41:13, it is written “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand: it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” He sees us, He hears us, He knows what is challenging when we don’t want to admit weakness, and He does not change. We are so loved that Christ Himself endured the ultimate change in place and personhood, underwent the ultimate move from Heaven down to earth, in order that we would be in the full and complete presence of God’s glory, in a world made new and beautiful and perfect and right beyond our comprehension. 

                So I see you, senior or grad student who is staring across the chasm at that job or the murky cloud of I-have-no-clue-what-I’m-doing-and-hate-it-when-people-ask. I see you, freshman or transfer student who, months ago thought the idea of going to a new place was so enticing, and now? It’s just plain hard. I see you, Lexington local, who keenly feels the shift, the metaphorical distance between you and your family, going to college and teetering on the brink of adulthood. You are loved as you venture into the unknown, you are loved as you are adjusting to the unknown that is right here. This is part of your growth, and grace abounds, even as you still do not see the good in it. Over time, I pray that you see the slivers of God’s glory seeping into this unknown—the sunshine bursting forth after weeks of cloud cover, a good cup of coffee, a library card, the promise of a new friend. These are good gifts, and oh how He delights in giving them to His sons and daughters.