Thirteen years ago we moved into a home that was at least half the size of the house we vacated. We had needed a place large enough for the seven children we blended into one family: outdoor space to accommodate the sporting interests of the four boys still at home, indoor space to host out-of-town relatives and assorted high school friends for overnight holiday gatherings. But in 2004, my husband’s health issues and an empty nest made relocation an easy decision.
I know that some of you readers may have faced the joys of downsizing. For us, it consisted of two garage sales (one at each property), truckloads of “stuff” for disposal, tons of books donated to the local libraries, in addition to several pieces of furniture given to the two local married children, still at the acquisitive stage of life.
The night we moved, we collapsed in bed, feeling that at our age we had been barely able to accomplish the ordeal. And we were still a good deal younger than 75-year-old Abram and Sarai when they got their marching orders from the Lord. One big difference: they were up-sizing.
God directed them to take their servants and farm animals with them, and to settle in a much more extensive territory. There God would give them countless descendants to fill and eventually inherit the land.
Abram had a few questions, the most important of which had to do with heirs, since he and Sarai were childless and at their age quite likely to remain so.
Major lessons from the Old Testament have to do with total obedience to whatever the Lord commanded. It didn’t matter that the people so commanded might think themselves utterly unfit and even unqualified. Moses argued that he couldn’t lead the Israelites to freedom because he couldn’t speak very well, or persuasively. Not to mention his lack of management training. He was a shepherd, remember, in charge of gentle animals who are easy to lead — a far cry from the independent-minded, faithless Israelites.
Jeremiah complained that he was too young to be a prophet, and Abram certainly could have said, “We’re way too old for a move like this! We’ve gotten used to our life and are happy the way things are.”
“Not good enough,” I imagine God replying. “Staying in the same place all your life simply means you’re in a rut. Grow up and out! Take on an adventure, for heaven’s sake! Expand your horizons! Blossom!”
And so says He to us who would rather keep on doing the same old thing over and over, fighting tooth and nail against any change — particularly those of a spiritual nature.
Isn’t it odd that it’s usually adults, not children, who complain about change? A child can’t wait to get to the next step in its development. Like the little girl I recently met who took the opportunity to brag to me, a stranger, “I just turned 5!” Hurray!
Children consider it a badge of honor to outgrow last month’s new clothes. Bring on the new set! Moving up a grade is a significant milestone. I can remember starting 4th grade, how my classmate, with a twirl of her pigtails, proudly remarked that this year we were to launch into the new subject of HISTORY!
So how does it happen that we outgrow this eagerness to grow, especially where our faith is concerned? Our spiritual life can and must grow and change, ever deepening in our knowledge of the God we serve and of the Savior we love. How can we think that everything we need to know about God was learned in the 2nd grade? Have we so fully understood all there is to know in the Gospels? And Christ purposely told cryptic parables, challenging his audience to work at understanding their meaning and how they might change their way of looking at life, their way of living.
So here we are now in Elmira, our worship space and schedule shrinking. We may be downsizing in these respects, but in the grand scheme of things we’re up-sizing. We’re merging into one community, thankfully an optimistic development. What if it were the other way around? Instead of merging, what if there were some form of rivalry causing us to split?
Let’s offer prayers of thanks for this solution. Our graceful and grace-filled unity offers an opportunity to be seen as a public model of Christianity, an image of living evangelization. What a blessing! What new forms of living and growing in our faith might be open to us now? Christ tells us that the unity of believers images none other than his all-inclusive love for us.
“I pray that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one . . . that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. Father, they are your gift to me.”
(John 17:20-21; 23-24a)