simple thoughts on faith and leaving

Many of you have written me kind notes of encouragement since I first shared with you about why my husband is quitting his job. Your emails, comments, (and even some letters!) have been cool water on dry days for us. Today, five days before his last day as a youth pastor, we are encouraged, thankful, and filled with hope.

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I have wanted to update you on how things are going as it relates to John’s job and what comes next, but before I do that there is something that has been rolling around in my soul and I’m unable to move forward in writing or in thinking until I find the words to express some thoughts regarding this transition.

Since we announced to our community and to the public that we have made this Very Big Decision to quit our perfectly acceptable job with our perfectly regular paycheck, we are never sure exactly how people are going to respond. But there are some common themes to most of the responses we hear:

You have so much faith.

You are brave.

You are an inspiration.

And every now and then, we also hear what people say behind our back to friends and relatives: What in the world are they going to do?!

I think I love that one the most, because I know that’s really what many are thinking but they worry it will offend us if they say it to our face.

I understand where people are coming from when they say all these things. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and don’t want to take away from the genuine and heartfelt support people so kindly offer. But I wanted to take a few moments and point out some of the unspoken assumptions that might hover invisibly over words like “you’re brave” and “you have great faith.”

There is a part of me that gets a little squirmy with the implication that we have faith in greater measure just because we are leaving a job.

It’s true, faith is often required to leave a job.

But faith is also required to stay at a job.

“I’ve never attended a ‘steadfast obedience’ party at work. I’ve never been invited to a ‘staying put’ get-together. I’ve never heard of a ‘sticking around forever’ shindig. And I haven’t for one simple reason: We live in a corporate culture that celebrates people who leave and ignores those who stay.”

Jon Acuff, Quitter

We have to be careful not to point to outward actions as the only implication of an inward reality. You can’t always tell from an outside glance what is happening on the deep level of the soul. Over time, theses realities become clear. But be careful to elevate those who seem to be making noticeable decisions that have obvious impact over those who make small decisions in quiet corners with little noticeable impact at all.

All movement requires faith no matter how big or small it may look on the outside – whether you’re stepping into the unknown or stepping into the same thing as yesterday.

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John and I have have been praying for over two years about what might be next for us. For two years, we have quietly waited, listened, and stayed right where we are. During that time, no one said we were brave or had a lot of faith because there was no action to point to as proof. But those years of waiting and listening were necessary for the movement happening right now – the kind of movement people can see.

Maybe your movement is small right now, too. Maybe you watch as others around you seem to be making “big moves” and have “great faith.”

Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.

So yes, we are leaving a job. And over the next few days, as kind friends and curious bystanders send us off and say some of these lovely words, John and I will receive them with gratitude and beg God to filter words of praise for us through the person of Jesus who did only what he saw his Father do and said only what he heard his Father say.

May it be so of all of us no matter how big, small, or ordinary our next steps might be.

Comments

  1. says

    Around nine years ago, my husband was unhappy with the direction of his employment. He had been praying and one day, shortly after moving into a brand new home that we built and mortgaged, he came home and told me that God told him to quit his job. He gave his two week notice. He didn’t have a back up and I was scared to death! Nearing the end of his two weeks he received a call from a company that found his resume online. He had posted it a year earlier and had forgotten. They brought him in for an interview, and he ended up never missing one day of employment. He was obedient to God and the Lord proved Himself strong. My husband is still working for that company today.
    When you follow the direction the Lord has, even when you have no idea what the next step is, you cannot go wrong.
    Blessings to you and your new journey!
    Jennifer´s last blog post ..A Wedding Full of Mercy

  2. says

    Beautifully stated! You captured some of the anonymity of faith!!! My son and I are traveling to Ukraine next week after years of ‘staying’ faith and your words round out some nameless feelings I’ve had. Thank you!!!

  3. says

    Emily, my “move” is small right now as I’ve waited a couple years for God to make the big one for my husband and me. We are still waiting and it is hard. Thank you again for sharing your heart and uplifting mine.

    • Cathy says

      Love the encouragement both of you offer! Thank you for your faithfulness! And your willingness to share!!

  4. says

    Thank you for talking about this. It definitely does take faith to stay put. I have a friend that is about to make a major life change (moving to a different state) because God is clearly calling her there. He has provided everything she needs to make this move, but it still is a leap of faith for her. The temptation for me is to desire a similar change. But my life circumstances are completely different. It is literally a daily struggle for me to surrender my circumstances to the Lord. It would be easy to create a change in my life on my own, and change careers. But I am praying that God would show me my purpose for being where I am. It takes faith to stay in my position. To believe that God has a purpose for me here. And though it may not seem that there is movement in my life that requires faith, I feel it everyday. The ‘staying-put’ takes just as much faith as the ‘get-up-and-go’. Thank you for your encouraging words today Emily!
    Sarah´s last blog post ..His Rhythm

  5. Ro elliott says

    I love this….I have been pondering this upside kingdom we live in…how we want our faith…our love…our obedience to be measurable ….something we can hold tangibly and be able to “give an account” to God and to others for the lives we live. Thanks be to God, He doesn’t count….measure and value the way we do…it takes courage and faith to wake up everyday and just live for Him….no matter where He leads. Continued wisdom and Grace to follow Love where He leads.

  6. says

    Thanks for these thoughts, Emily. I agree that the waiting is just as challenging and faith-filled. We will be starting a phenomenally new chapter in our family’s life at the end of this week & into next month, but the discernment of this change has evolved over nearly 4 years. Those years of waiting and discernment definitely required a great deal of faith.

  7. says

    I’ve just had a major upheaval at my job, and am being transferred to a different school after almost 10 years, and every part of my being wants to leave and find a new one. I asked to stay at my school, and that door was closed. I applied for a new job, and that door was closed. I have faith that God knows what the next chapter is in my life, but I need him to show me what it is. Soon. I don’t know how to be a patient waiter. I don’t know how to listen to his voice, and know in my heart what he is telling me. I can’t distinguish between what he wants for me, and what I want for myself. So I feel trapped, and brokenhearted, and lost. This was a beautiful post, and I thank you for sharing it. I am saving it, in case I end up staying and having to go to that new school, so that I can read it, every single day.
    Beth R.´s last blog post ..From the Shore

  8. says

    Emily, bless you and John in this phase of life. My husband and I were led and stayed put in a hard situation……yet blessed situation!….. for 7 years. His job ended a year ago, and we have been in transition ever since. God is always good and always leads…..even when the path looks nothing like we anticipate. The trust journey is insightful. May your eyes see and ears hear all the Lord wants you to know as you wait on Him. May Truth be your daily bread and speak louder than all the other noise you will hear. Bless you!

  9. says

    This is a sigh to my heavy heart this morning. Thank you for the reminder that there is just as much courage in the act of staying as there is in the act of leaving. That the filter is always Jesus. Thank you for pointing me to Him. You’ve been on my heart and in my thoughts often this week. Praying.
    Shelly Miller´s last blog post ..The Metamorphosis of Beauty {A Giveaway}

  10. says

    Emily, I so appreciate your perspective on this. I have a couple of friends who have been battling with whether or not to leave their church (he’s the pastor) without a place to go because things are so difficult right now. But they have not felt a release from that calling from the Lord, so they have stayed. It has taken GREAT bravery and faith to stay. And yet, I know at times for them, it has seemed like almost the cowardice thing for them to do. Should they step out in faith or stay in faith? They have stayed …in faith. And while most people have not seen it and never will attribute their staying as “faith full,” I have. And I celebrate it. Because it’s hard. I have forwarded your post to her today because your words will minister to her soul, I know. I praise God for your maturity in this and wish you and your husband only the best!
    Kay´s last blog post ..You Can Wear Other T-Shirts

  11. Judy says

    These are wise words Emily – made me think of Eugene Petersen’s book, “The Pastor” in which he talks about “a long obedience in the same direction” as he spends half a lifetime pastoring one church. How we need to know the Holy Spirit’s voice in our lives so that we follow His promptings, whether to leave or stay.
    May you know the “peace that passes all understanding” in the days and weeks ahead.

  12. says

    Emily, I love this so very much. Thank you for excavating some of the musings of a soul which is also in limbo. Balm, this is. Salve too. And I am grateful you peeled back the sub-issues. We tend to see the surface and assume. We are a bit more complicated and so is our faith. Oh that we have the lens of faith through Jesus. A steady unbreakable unshakeable glass through which to view our stuff.
    Elizabeth W. Marshall´s last blog post ..You Could Always Just Say Thank You

  13. says

    Emily! I so needed these words today: “Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.”

    I have also been praying about leaving my job, the money is helpful in our large family, my job is with our church, which I love with my whole heart, but the job is just not where I want to be in the larger picture of my life.

    Thank you, so so much for these brave and God-filled words today!
    Trish´s last blog post ..Truth is…

  14. Sarah Nutter says

    Beautiful. One of my favorite posts from you, Emily. Thank you for your humility, and for your leadership in pointing all of our perspectives back to what faith and courage really are.

  15. says

    This? —> “We have to be careful not to point to outer actions as the only implication of an inward reality. You can’t always tell from an outside glance what is happening on the deep level of the soul. Over time, theses realities become clear. But be careful to elevate those who seem to be making noticeable decisions that have obvious impact over those who make small decisions in quiet corners with little noticeable impact at all.”
    Is so good, so true. Thanks for giving voice to the overlooked faith of steadfast, slow even, movement – I pray I can see and affirm that in those around me.
    Grace & Peace to y’all as you continue on the journey!
    Ashley´s last blog post ..What now?

  16. says

    I confess I don’t typically click over your way, but your post caught my eye. I am in the midst of the very same process – my husband is leaving his senior pastor position of 10 years to persue a new call to ministry in my hometown 3 hours away. It has been a trying and exciting time. We prayed for over a year about it al as we felt God was preparing us for a new move although we didn’t have clarity for over a year. Finally we are able to see it all – His hand throughout it all. We are so excited. We know God will be with us through it and now as we try to put the pieces together to make the move in 6 weeks, we pray God will put it all together (including selling the house). We are building our faith so much in the process. It is really awesome. Only HE can make it all happen – trust Him to work it out. Be obedient and He will be FAITHFUL. It was so hard to tell our congregation and there have been many tears, but we choose to follow HIM. Not everyone fully understands picking up your cross and following Him….it is a sacrifice, but with great reward. I think of 1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.
    Trust in Him – He will not let you down. Blessings on your journey –
    Stacey of Embracing Change

  17. says

    I am using my “Mama voice” today Emily. My daughter is just your age, so I think it’s okay – just for now. I have found, as my children stepped into adulthood, it is often times hard not to say the safe things. However, I know that isn’t the right way of things. I have come to know them well, and when they make decisions that make me want to pull them back into my protective embrace I trust. When my daughter decided France would be a great place to live, I prayed, knowing she is a wise, careful young woman.
    I have gotten to know you and John over the years I’ve read your words. As I’ve thought about you and prayed for you I’ve known all would be well. This post makes me feel absolutely sure of that. You have a precious heart – you both do – and you make decisions with much thought and prayer. I am prayerfully eager to see where God is taking you.
    I have found myself far more often in the place of staying, and your words bless and encourage me. I’m in that winter season – and I so want all the days to count for something. Sometimes it all seems so small, but it is His small – and I find contentment.
    Blessings dear heart.
    Linda´s last blog post ..Wonder on a Sunday Afternoon

  18. says

    We are in the “waiting at work while trying to be brave” stage, as we live pay check to pay check (actually not quite making it each month) and then wondering if we just need to up and move to a state that is growing – with high school kids who will be so very affected by our decision. Or do we just ‘hang on’ for four more years until the last one is out of the nest? It is difficult to know what God’s plan is while we sit patiently. “Patiently” is hard, sometimes. God is good – and we will make it and look back and smile.
    You are a truly gifted writer. Don’t ever doubt it.
    -Trish
    Trish @TheOldPostRoad´s last blog post ..Great

  19. says

    Thank for taking time to recognize the faith needed to stay, as you summon the faith to go. I think humbling ourselves before the Lord daily helps us know which season we are being called to. My adventurous spirit craves change and so it requires more faith for me to stay put and do the quiet work He called me to this day. Your humble spirit honors Him!
    Kelli´s last blog post ..Tales From Wal-Mart

  20. Joan Marie says

    <3 …You are so loved! …and your words resonate within…while parts of me may yearn for the 'new adventure' I know that the faithfulness of God speaks to me in the 'everyday journey' of this season of my life…that doesn't stop me from keeping an 'ever expectant eye and ear' to what He has in the design of my tomorrows, though… =) Thank you, Emily…I will enjoy 'reading' as your journey continues…and as always will hold you and your family in my heart prayers <3

  21. says

    Those are not simple thoughts. Those are actually quite profound thoughts worded beautifully and accessibly (Is that a word? You know what I mean.) And though you wrote them for you, as is usually the case, they are for me too. Thank you. I’m praying for you. I really am. You feel like such a friend to me.

  22. says

    When I quit my job as a teacher to be a stay-at-home-momma, many people questioned my sanity behind my back. But a dearly loved and wise friend encouraged me by reminding me that it is completely sane to “live on the front lines of faith”.
    It’s exciting to watch and encourage those who believe in the mighty power of God SO deeply that they are willing to put everything they have on the table and live on the front lines of faith!
    I look forward to gleaning wisdom and insight from your journey through this! :)
    Mindy Rogers´s last blog post ..The Word and their words

  23. says

    Love this. Thank you for writing directly from your heart and your “present.” It’s so easy to hail the action when we forget to see the days (years?) of waiting, praying, and patiently staying that have gone into the action. Thank you for reminding us who are in a season of “staying.”
    Nancy@ThereIsGrace´s last blog post ..Is Modesty Relative?

  24. Janet says

    Emily, this past Sunday, our church gave our family a send-off party as my husband finished 12 years as their pastor. We, too, had been praying and seeking for two years before God revealed what is next. This party was truly a celebration of God’s faithfulness for 12 years and His faithfulness for the future for all of us. New adventures await us in a new town with a new group of people. New adventures await the church we’ve just left. Thank you for being so honest about making such a change and not being entirely sure what it is. God is so good and He delights in you and your husband’s obedience. Really, He just plain delights in you both!

  25. says

    Emily,
    I love that you express this. Following what an unseen God says to any of us–whether it’s staying, going, speaking, hushing in a marriage, parenting, job, and life–takes great faith. I appreciate you.

    Deb Weaver
    thewordweaver.com
    Deb Weaver´s last blog post ..“Seat Reserved for Moms”

  26. says

    I just love this Ms. Emily – really love it. I love that you don’t think more highly of yourselves than others (and believe God will honor that in your lives) and that you can appreciate those who stay as well as those who go. I love that every step, every word, points back to God for really that is why we go and why we stay. Bless you and your family in this next step of your journey of faith!
    Mindy´s last blog post ..Sunday Reflection

  27. says

    Good words! Also I’m glad you quoted Quitter, one of my favorite books.

    No one sees the sleepless nights, the prayers and the dreaming. But the results can be overwhelming! Go do good works! I believe in you guys! for reals!
    David Helms´s last blog post ..Wide Open Dreaming

  28. Donna says

    “It’s true, faith is often required to leave a job.
    But faith is also required to stay at a job. ”

    How very true! And so insightful. I was in a difficult spot in a job I disliked, and prayed regularly for direction. I did get a lot of direction but none it said, “ok you can quit”. So I stayed and I prayed for almost a year, when I was suddenly told that my position had been eliminated, and I would be getting 10 weeks severance, in addition to non contested unemployment, which I haven’t had to use BUT was nice to know, just in case. Thank you Lord for being involved in the details of my life and always wanting the best for me. And Thank you for leading me to Emily. She is such a gifted writer. I enjoy reading “chatting at the sky” because it makes me think, learn and smile :)

  29. says

    I hear you so much. Our leaving didn’t mean we were braver or had more faith, it just meant that we were told to go. Before that, we were told to just stay. So we did. There’s nothing super earth-shattering for us in all of this. It’s a quiet drive, sometimes a lonely drive, sometimes a bumpy drive.

    Part of our “going” meant taking many steps backwards, in many different respects. THAT is what people don’t understand. It may not be as much about going/staying as it is (for us) moving ahead/taking steps back.

    I dunno. You’ve given me food for thought. I like you for that.
    Flower Patch Farmgirl´s last blog post ..Korean Camp

  30. says

    This is such a beautiful post about faith in all changes – great, small, not at all. I have definitely had my share of them in the past four years. My John and I are praying and taking small leaps of faith at the moment as he tries to figure out where God is leading him post-AIT training with the National Guard. Sometimes the small leaps are even harder than the big ones, but you’re right, faith is part of them all.

    And I love the Jon Acuff quote. I finished that book a few months ago and it completely changed my attitude about my day job (admin assistant) vs. dream job (writer).

    So much of what happens in the big leaps is a culmination of all the tiny leaps no one ever knows about, which I think you mentioned so eloquently in this post. :)
    Amy´s last blog post ..All You Have to Do is Jump

  31. says

    Love the pic, love the post, love your heart, and love your example of faith—while praying & waiting, and while praying & moving where He would lead. Thank you for your honestly and willingness to share pieces of your life.
    Hope

  32. says

    “The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.” Love this so much, Emily. It was a revelation when I first heard the idea that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. This was good for me to read, today. Thank you.
    Annie Barnett´s last blog post ..Morning by Morning

  33. says

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for this post. Both points of measure (the courage and faith variety, that is) bears considering from all angles. Still, your decisions for you…both the waiting two years and the jumping off in faith…have required courage. ANYTIME we walk in faith, we are courageous. Because we know that we are surrendering all control to Him, whose path for us is often divergent from the one we might travel ourselves. I am excited for you for this time of transition, but can also imagine how anxious it can sometimes make you feel. So, for both, in thanksgiving always for the lessons he gives us, I will be praying for you.

    Speaking of lessons, I submitted a post entitled, “A Love Letter to (in)courage” this week in thanksgiving for all that you beautiful writers give to us. Though it was not a good fit for the site, I realized my disappointment didn’t stem from the rejection…it stemmed from the fact that I really, really wanted you all to know how much your writing has lifted me. So I posted it on my blog and am providing a link below, just in case you want to read it. It may help in the coming days, when life seems a jumble, to know that your words are reaching far and wide…and changing lives.

    http://godsdailymessageforthedense.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-love-letter-to-encourage.html

    All the best to your family! He’s got you!!
    Cynthia McGarity´s last blog post ..A Love Letter to (in)courage

  34. says

    Thank you for drawing attention to faithfulness.
    We are asked to be faithful, in little things, in big things, and sometimes that means that we get to do big exciting, or even scary things. Sometimes not. Both will happen in a life given over to God, and both are worth celebration.
    Love this, Emily. Thanks so much.
    Cara Strickland´s last blog post ..10 Things I Learned In June

  35. says

    Precious, really! I can see where that might not sound like a compliment. I’m just a southern girl. Your writing really touches my heart. You have such a sweet spirit. I don’t always make it back over here, but I always enjoy it when I stop by. So refreshing! Hope you will keep writing! I can’t wait to hear what happens next!

  36. says

    oh emily, i say the same thing all the time, but this is beautiful.
    your honesty is so refreshing. you make big decisions seem so peaceful only because YOU truly have the peace that surpasses all understanding.
    looking forward to seeing where the Lord leads ya’ll on your next adventure!
    paige´s last blog post ..a favorite chicken salad

  37. says

    Thank the lord that my kids are healthy. That you know, my kids are finishing school. That my kids are safe. And you thank the Lord for all the blessings and all those to come And ask the Lord to keep my kids safe and you know, continue. You know, and continue, you know keep them away from diseases. And pray for the people that past away, and they’re forgiven for their mortal sins. And be thankful for your blessings and those that are about to come. Help you with your daily activities, and think clearly, and support you with stuff.

    If you’re having a hard time with something, you go to church and ask the Lord to be there and to help you, you know, to help you finish whatever , help you with your accomplishment. And when you get your accomplishment, you have to be thankful, you can’t just forget. You can’t forget. Every time you think that you need help, you know you pray. You need to have faith.

    Having faith helps you to not go crazy. That’s you’re hoping that something can change. That is not just going to be the end of the world. Some people, they don’t have faith, and they just go and commit suicide. They don’t think that anything can help them. You know I go, and I don’t pick any church. I just know that there is something higher than everybody, powerful than anybody. You know, and when something happened in your life to where you are really really mad, you don’t use your hand, or your feet, you always use your words. Like if you’re mad…

    So you won’t think that it’s going to be the end of the world for you. So that you know the world won’t crush on you. So you know you need to have faith to live and move on.

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