Beginning in February, Sonya and I entered into a new ministry. I have accepted the call to become the pastor of First Baptist Church Dadeville. In making this transition, we have discovered some things that we knew but have come to realize with greater intensity. Our home in Decatur is approximately 1800 sq. feet with three bedrooms; we are currently living a great adventure in a condo that also has three bedrooms, but it is only 1100 sq. feet – give or take a few.
Please don’t understand this as a complaint in any way, but we are missing 700 sq. feet of living space. You may think 700 sq. feet is not that much, but believe me, you can and will miss the space if you ever downsize. We have brought with us what Sonya has deemed “the basic essentials;” this could be another post all its own. We have shoved aside items that have been left in the furnished condo so that our essentials could find a home. Until our house in Decatur sells, we have traded places and spaces to create a new home. There are some things we miss in our temporary living situation. The other day Sonya missed her cast iron skillet, and I missed it because it meant there was no cornbread to go with my chicken and dumplings. There are other items that are not absolute necessities, but they are things that we used often and we find ourselves saying, “Oh, that is still in a box.”
Why is it that we seldom pay attention to the dimensions of our lives until everything shifts? Sometimes the movement is good and sometimes it’s bad. In recent news, tragedies have resulted in major upheavals for too many people: deaths due to the flu epidemic, deaths due to shootings, diagnoses of terrible diseases, and many other life changing events. Each one of these life-changing moments, whether joyful occasions like our recent move or a devastating tragedy like the shooting in Florida, shifts the dimensions. How we respond to this shifting depends totally on 18 inches — more or less. I have heard it said that the people who miss Heaven do so by 18 inches – the average distance between our hearts and our brains, but it isn’t only in matters of salvation that this saying applies.
When our world of order and reason shifts due to dramatic change, we have to understand and rely on the One who has ordered our steps. If you have only a head knowledge of Jesus, when confusion and change come at you, your first instinct is going to look for someone to blame, anyone other than self. “If guns….” “If they….” “If only….” The problem is that this type of thinking never comforts a broken heart or provides answers to a confused mind. If, on the other hand, you have a head knowledge of Jesus as well as a heart knowledge, you will find the peace that passes all understanding. You will trust that the One Who created the universe and formed you in your mother’s womb is present in the changes that have occurred. You won’t necessarily find answers to all of your questions, but you will find a degree of comfort in knowing that each event has been filtered through the holy fingers of God. We have learned that this does not completely take away the grief that comes from tragedy; it will not immediately increase cabinet space for all of those necessities. But it will give you hope and assurance that the Father has something much better waiting for you.
Recently something hit me in my study of the book of Mark. It was in the story of the friends who carried their paralyzed friend through the dusty streets, up the ladder to the roof, and then made a huge hole in order to get to Jesus. More than anything, they wanted that man to walk. They wanted him to experience what they all thought would be the most wonderful gift ever. And yes, for a person that had never walked, this would be a wonderful gift. Little did they know that Jesus wanted to give him something greater: forgiveness of sin. Now, He also gave him the ability to get up and walk, but the greatest need of his life was to experience an intimate love relationship with the Father. You see, this man had lived on his mat every day of his life. No doubt, he wanted to trade that tiny space for what seemed like the greatest thing possible. He thought that walking would be the answer to all his problems – no more having to beg or rely on his friends to get him where he needed to be. But Jesus had an even greater space for him; He had eternity reserved for this paralyzed man who had a head knowledge of Jesus. From all that he had heard about our Lord, Jesus had the power to heal him as He had healed others, but what transpired was beyond his wildest imagination. He left home that morning with a head knowledge that he exchanged for a relationship, and he traded a worn-out mat for a space before the Father’s throne.
One day, our old home will belong to someone else – a new owner. And our boxes will be unpacked and there will be a place in our new home for all the stuff that we are learning to live without. In the in-between space, we will learn to cope, and we will be forever grateful that as our spaces continue to shift on this Earth that we know there is a space in heaven reserved for us that will never change. We know this to be true because we know Jesus — not just in our heads but in our hearts.
Ben and Sonya