I have carried, labored and delivered four babies. While every baby was a different experience, there were many things that were the same every time. One of those things was the six weeks leading up to delivery day. It was always the same-the discomfort, the aching body, the desire to eat large portions of delicious food without feeling sick, the realization that I am DONE with being pregnant and let’s get it over with already, and the anxiousness of knowing life is never going to be the same once this is all over.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those last few weeks a momma goes through right before labor and delivery, lately. Not because we are about to have another baby, but because we have been planting a church.
I know you must be thinking, “What does childbearing have to do with church planting?” Surprisingly, they are very similar, minus the epidurals.
The thought to plant a church was conceived in our hearts 7 years ago. In April of 2009 I wrote in my journal:
I can’t shake the feeling that God may ask us to plant a church soon. That seems crazy. Maybe I'm off. I’m just going to hold on to that thought for now, unless Matt says something about it.
Well, it was a year later that my husband started talking to me about church planting. I hadn’t said a word to him about my journal entry because I didn’t want to put ideas in his head. If this was what we were supposed to do, I wanted him to hear it from God, not from me. He heard from God and I just responded to him, "Yeah, I already know."
And so we began dreaming, much like parents do when they find out they’re pregnant. We dreamt about what this church might look like and the potential of how it could impact the community we lived in. We talked about it for hours, then weeks, then months and then years, praying all the while for God’s direction and wisdom. Then we waited…and waited…and waited. It would be six more years before this church would be birthed.
I’d like to say that during this time of waiting I had great confidence and faith in the process, but that would be a bold-faced lie. Instead, I whined about how long it was taking. I questioned God’s intentions as he took us down paths that didn’t seem to be moving us in the church planting direction. I found myself ready to just be DONE with this process already! God patiently worked in my heart, helping me to grow to a point of readiness for what was ahead. I’m so thankful he knows what the right timing is. Pre-mature births can be difficult and scary.
Like any labor and delivery, we weren’t alone in it-thankfully! We had teams of people who said they wanted to do this with us. While we were waiting, God was moving on the hearts of people to join us, some were long time friends and some were people we had yet to meet.
Today, we launched this church alongside these people. A whole bunch of us showed up and celebrated the new life of this church that God has been and is continuing to build. It is a church that has been longed for, planned for and through the labor of many of his people, has opened its doors in our community. What a beautifully, exhausting day it has been.
What strikes me most though, and what has always struck me when I look at one of my new babies, is how the glory of God is so apparent. To see what has taken shape in the months of waiting makes me catch my breath every time. No one but the almighty Creator of heaven and earth could have done this. In the same way a momma looks in awe at her tiny new baby, I stood in the lobby of our building and watched the church mingle, some hugging familiar faces, others meeting new ones, I was almost breathless. She is here. After years of waiting and months of laboring, this new, radiant church is here. No one but God could have created this and brought it all together today. She is beautiful, and we are overjoyed.
Not only was it glorious, it was filled with intention. This wasn’t just a social gathering, rather it was something much more intentional. The buzz of excitement wasn’t just because people were gathering-it was because these are people who have been saved from the devastation of sin, and called to a mission. That is what it is all about. The church is about the celebration of what Jesus has done for us, and the mission he has called us to. Everyone there today heard that church is not just about securing a reservation in eternity. We know that we are called to a mission, and we are called to do it together. We are walking shoulder to shoulder into our everyday with a pressing in our hearts that compels us to share the Gospel. This creates a sense of urgency when we are together. And as we stood together to sing, sat to hear from God’s Word and hugged each other’s necks, we knew that, like soldiers in the trenches, we are in this together.
Like any momma after a delivery, I am overwhelmed with emotions (allow me to refer back to the title of this piece). The reality of what God has been up to all these years is happening now. It’s not just a dream anymore. It is no longer a conversation beginning with the words “Someday…” And as I sit here and try to sort through all that I have seen and heard today, I am mostly overwhelmed with gratitude. God did what he said he would, just as he always does.
Do you find yourself in a season of waiting? Maybe you are waiting for the birth of a child, and the growing pains are stretching your belly and heart until they can stretch no more. Maybe you are waiting for relief from a burden that you have carried for too long and your soul is crying for rest. Maybe you are waiting for a relationship to be restored and hope has been deferred for what feels like a lifetime. Do you sometimes wonder if God has forgotten you and doesn’t know where you are?
My prayer for us today is that we would hold fast to what we know is true-that God is good, and his intentions toward us are good too. I pray that as we wait we would not fall into the trap of anger and bitterness because things are not happening the way we thought they would. I pray that we will trust God to fulfill his purposes in his time and find rest while we wait in his immense love for us.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrew 10:23-25