"I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
The Israelites were promised a saviour who would deliver them from decades of slavery and persecution. Expectation ran high for generations. And as each generation endured the continuation of that slavery but with various masters and the promise left unfulfilled, there would have been doubt, bitterness, taking up the sword and fighting for themselves. Fighting for freedom.
Because while they were in the waiting, there would have been many who doubted the promise was even such a thing at all. Perhaps it was just a rumour. Manipulation. A movement. Someone's clever idea to achieve unity. Or even just wishful thinking.
I know a thing or two about that too.
My family has been in the waiting recently and we have been in the waiting before. Each time I heard God's promise and each time I clung to that promise with every ounce of hope I had my heart and little finger tips. And each times, God fulfilled that promise.
I am married to a promise. Nearly 19 years of a promise fulfilled.
And I have recently celebrated the birthdays of two other promises. Any woman who struggles with infertility knows the waiting all too well. The hope, the fear, the pain and anguish in the waiting. But I heard God's promise clear as anything that he was "doing a new thing" in me. I took that promise and I believed and now my baby boy is thirteen, my baby girl is 10 and two little surprises that came not long after were like the icing on the cake of that original promise.
With cherries on top.
So two years ago when I was in the midst of grief and sadness and fear over the thought of losing my community, the church family I'd known and loved for several years, and I heard God's whisper saying, "I will give you community elsewhere," I believed Him. I exhaled all of that fear and sadness and grief and I inhaled deeply of gratitude. The relief and peace I felt was immediate and overwhelming. And I also knew that God had already begun to fulfil that promise in my life and by now He has given me so much more of true community than I ever imagined I'd had before.
And then this year. We arrived back from a trip to Canada in January asking questions. I was tremendously unsettled. I gave myself some time to get over the feelings of disequilibrium and homesickness (my true north strong and free!), but the unsettledness did not go away. By March, the questions we had been asking ourselves began to lead us in a very clear direction.
1. Who are we?
2. Where are we going?
3. How are we going to get there?
It hit us like a tonne of bricks that we were in the wrong place. Literally. We were not supposed to be here anymore. And once we began to entertain the possibility that we should move, all the reasons why we should became glaringly obvious. It was just the how and the when and the what that was unclear.
We began to look at houses in a new area and we had great fun imagining ourselves living there. But eventually we came across a piece of land in a unique but perfect situation. I had sworn up and down that I wouldn't build again. Dont get me wrong: I loved building. But it was the landscaping and transforming mud and rocks into a garden and a yard that I couldn't fathom again. Could we? Should we?
So Paul went for a walk to the shops and on his way back home and elderly friend of ours was in her front garden and she stopped him, grabbed his hands, looked him straight in the eye and said, "launch out into the deep." Her words came from some verses in the Bible she had been meditating on, where Jesus tells Peter to stop fishing in the shallow water and launch out into the deep.
And those five words became the promise that we we were waiting for. The promise that that we could and we should and that in fact, we must.
In May we put our house up for sale but immediately upon signing the authorisation, I heard god's whisper in my ear. It was a promise that there was a perfect time for our house to sale but it was not yet. That perfect time would be at the end of the year and that we had to be patient in the waiting. We would sell in the perfect time and it would mean that we could go to the South Island for Christmas and be with family there. It would mean a fresh start in January with a new house to rent and new schools.
Through the winter we did not actively market our property, but picked up the reigns in September. As September flew into October I had to clamp down on those oh-so-human doubts that our house would ever sell. I would literally shush myself when mind wandered towards thinking that perhaps we had mis-heard the promises in the first place. Perhaps it was just our own wishful thinking after all.
Thankfully my dearly beloved was there with me. He never doubted and was always on hand to remind me of how God has worked in our lives, starting with that very first most wonderful promise, our union together.
Our house did sell and the settlement date that was agreed upon was the 19th of December.
We will put our things into storage and head to Wellington the next day and get on a ferry to the South Island the day after that.
I know what you're thinking...or you should be thinking.
God is so cool!
There are still a lot of uncertainties and questions about what lies ahead as we continue to launch out into the deep but it is tremendously exciting because we are resting on God's promise in it all and we have a lot of hope in that promise. And we know we can rest on that promise, because we've done it before.
We don't need to know exactly what that promise will look like, just as the Israelites did not know to expect the person of Jesus as their promised saviour. Many had built up that promise into something God had never intended and so did not recognise the fulfilment when He was right there in front of them. But those who chose to believe in Jesus soon learnt that he had come to give them life to the full (John 10:10).
And so as Paul and I and our family launch out into the deep, we know that we are in fact launching into life as well.
The life that God has promised us.
Life to the full.