Where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. ~ Anne Frank
Wearing leather-looking pants to my husband’s head-pastor job interview ranks as one of my most embarrassing moments. Pleather on the front, business black on the back — goodness, it was cringeworthy. What possessed me to sport edgy pants for a formal ministry interview is beyond me. I’ve since donated the evidence of my misjudgment. To all those deeply concerned about the top I wore for the interview, I’d like the record to show that it was an extremely modest, chunky sweater tunic.
You can breathe a sigh of relief; it covered me in every sense of the phrase.
What was maybe even worse than my wardrobe choice was the awkward way I was draping my arms over my lower extremities throughout the interview with the search committee. Shifting in my seat every so often, I’d readjust my arms to hide my knees and calves as best as possible. I bet it looked like I was trying to touch my toes all night, and that’s because I was. By the way, Aaron rocked the interview.
Before we left the parking lot for home, Aaron and I wept in the car, expressing what a holy moment the interview experience had been for us and our disbelief that we could love a people and place so dearly after having only visited once. Dallas Bible Church was home; Aaron just knew it. I agreed with commensurate optimism and joked that he should thank me for providing him with his first sermon illustration, the rock-’n’-roll pants.
Aaron is one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard and as pastoral as they come, but Dallas Bible Church’s search committee and search firm had been interviewing for months and had already selected their top two candidates for the final stages of hiring a lead pastor when they agreed to interview Aaron. His late entrance into the process didn’t inspire hope from my perspective.
By an act of grace, the Lord helped Aaron advance in the process. For our interview with the elder board, the governing authorities of the church, I was dressed appropriately, I assure you. But no fashion choice could have prepared me for Aaron’s speech during that final interview. Using chopping motions with his hands to accompany his declaration, he made it clear that this would not be a two-for-one hire. When I heard him make this statement, my neck popped his direction with the same force as a chiropractic adjustment, and my eyelashes practically touched my eyebrows in shock. Concerned everyone in the room could see my heart beating outside my chest, I stared at Aaron while he continued to preach.
“Kat and I have been married for twelve years, and it’s taken us a long time to find where she flourishes most. We’ve worked too hard and too long to see her diminish because of a role I take in ministry. Whatever you decide for Dallas Bible Church as it relates to my role as lead pastor, make sure your decision takes into account my wife’s full-time work, busy travel schedule, and calling to preach the Bible outside the walls of any church we join. I will not risk her calling for any job offer. As fiercely as I know possible, I will advocate for and protect her ministry as if it were my own. Upon taking a lead-pastor job, I do not expect her to lessen her commitment to her work unless the Lord makes it clear to her. And as the leaders of Dallas Bible Church, you should do the same. Make no assumptions that she will be my sidekick. Kat is my wife, and that is the role we want her to fulfill as it relates to my vocational ministry.”
Like an onlooker to a Forrest Gump Ping-Pong match, my head volleyed with glances back and forth from the elders to Aaron. Aaron showed me new dimensions of his love. He took up a mantle I didn’t know I needed him to hold. The courage required of him to set realistic expectations and boundaries with the organizational leaders determining his fate was not lost on me. In my estimation, he risked his dream job to ensure my flourishing. If the old saying “Start as you mean to go” is true, Aaron Armstrong intended to start his next season of ministry without any questions about where I stood in the picture.
You don’t need a husband, or a husband like Aaron, to experience the freedom to make a shift in your life. You need Jesus, because He is the origin of fresh starts.
If your in-between spot feels like a scratched record caught on its spinner, looped on the same recurring issue, don’t let hopelessness, exhaustion, or disillusionment be the notes stuck on repeat. You can rest assured that whatever it may be, it won’t always be like this. Like a hand from the sky, God can reach down to reset the record spinner and put a new song of peace in our hearts.
The apostle John introduced us to the God of new-song possibilities through his gospel account in the New Testament. Looking at the way John connected the book of Genesis to his own book is like listening to two accomplished musicians collaborate to create new sounds.
GENESIS CREATOR AND BEGINNING MAKER
Almost every life change can easily become an existential crisis: Who am I, really? We may not know where we belong or how we fit in any given situation, but God does. And we can trust he will be with us wherever we are on our journeys.
God has proven time and time again that he will make a way to be with us, most notably through his Son, Jesus Christ. This person, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, is the one who brings Heaven to earth. While we are looking for launching points into new opportunities or transition markers that confirm we are moving in the right direction, we can be sure that no matter where we are or where we end up, God will make His way there.
If you don’t have the energy, hope, or faith to follow Jesus, take heart: He comes to you. Maybe you are working your very first job, restarting school to finish your degree, becoming a first-time mom, or beginning a new life after a major loss. Are these starting points causing you to question your purpose? Remember, God specializes in a genesis of any kind.
“In the beginning” is the phrase both Moses and John chose to open their records of history. Whether it’s through Moses’ testimony in the book of Genesis about our first beginnings —
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — Genesis 1:1
— or John’s testimony in his gospel about our new beginnings —
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God — John 1:1
— one thing is clear: Jesus is the Genesis Creator and Beginning Maker. Three little words, in the beginning, show us that when we read our Bibles, we should treat John in the New Testament as a parallel work to Genesis in the Old.
We see this most clearly in John 1 when John teaches us that the Law came through Moses and grace came through Jesus. The Law wasn’t just a set of rules; it was the way God intended people living before the time of Christ to be in a relationship with Him. While it can be confusing, the Law’s purpose was to connect unholy, God-trusting people to a holy, trustworthy God. Verses later, John would explain that while the Law came through Moses, grace and truth come through Jesus. Revealing a whole new dimension to God’s love, Jesus’ incarnation, His presence in bodily form, made change possible.
When I doubt my abilities, when I’m fearful about the future, or when I step out in faith, I would much rather discover confidence, peace, and security before moving forward. Instead, I should focus my energy on an awareness of God’s grace and truth, which come through Christ and meet me where I am. As we look to find our place in this world, or to move on from a painful situation, may grace and truth mark our path forward.
Never do I need to hear John’s description of Jesus more than when my future feels dark. Christ is the Light. He was present and active in the creation of the world. His “light shines in the darkness,” and the darkness cannot overcome his presence (John 1:5). In Him, we have all received “grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
Maybe you need to hear that your future is bright. Not because of self-help, self-discovery, or a deep dive into the Enneagram personality chart — your future is bright because nothing can darken Jesus’ plans for you. This is not to say that suffering is a thing of your past. Suffering and failure are a part of being human. But I know that God’s goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life (Psalm 23:6).
To those who feel undeserving of a new beginning, remember, it’s grace. Grace upon grace, actually. No one deserves it, but it’s available to us now through Jesus. Wherever you need “in the beginning” to be a part of your story, God is able to create and re-create.
Excerpted with permission from The In-Between Place by Kat Armstrong, copyright Kat Armstrong.
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Are you in an in-between place? Many of us are right now. Is shame whispering in your ear? If so, tell the enemy that grace upon grace is your possession and shame has no place! You are not overcome by darkness! God is recreating you and Jesus isn’t done with you yet! Come share your thoughts. We want to hear from you. ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full