by Julia Sterne
January 31, 2017
6 min read
I do not have contact with any friends I knew when I was a child. Extended family connections consist of the occasional Facebook post. When I moved to Canada and filled out my PR card, forms I had over 15 addresses in a ten year period. I cannot name more than one neighbour I had in those years. And that one is only because he pulled a gun on Alastair (ask me later).
Faithful Presence are not words I would use to describe myself.
I have been a pick up and move, follow my whims, cut ties to make new ones kind of lady. It is made worse by the fact that I am easily distracted and sometimes forget the people I love even exist. I get consumed with what is in front of me and all else fades. I make deep friendships wherever I land, but moving onto the next thing can pull me right out of that space. I try and keep up, but I am poorly qualified to be a long distant friend (did I mention I forget people exist?).
As much as I have accepted this within my groupings of weaknesses, I always wanted that phase of my life to pass so I could plant roots, find a home, and make life long friends. I longed within me for something that was very much against my habits.
As such, when Alastair and I had the opportunity to move to Vancouver to plant a church I was eager and full of anticipation to make a home, an 80+ year home, in this new city. I wanted to get to know my neighbours and my grocery store owner and other families calling Van home. I wanted my kids to have best friends and have our church family watch them grow up.
But then I realized we moved to one of the most transient cities that ever existed.
That might be an exaggeration, but seriously, people cannot stay put. Whether it is the unattainable cost of living, the fact that they are students and need to go find work, or that they have the second kid and move to the suburbs, I have planted roots in a city of ebb and flow.
I was hoping for our family to be an oak tree in a forest of oaks. But I think we are closer to being a strand of kelp in an ocean of movement.
And then it hit me. I am now the one who stays. I used to have the privilege of being the one who leaves. People have come in and out of our lives and our community often. They are as I was. They are free. They can follow their visions and it’s often the right choice. They are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Our world, especially for the young, is one of mobility and adventure and conquering new lands.
But we who are left behind can feel a sharp pain in the loss of their presence. There is a hole, an absence, a void. I understand this for the first time here. But in this void there is a greater presence felt, the one in which we all sit. The faithful presence of a God who holds the whole world in his hands. We are moving puzzle pieces but he is the card table on which we lie. We are shifting sands but he is the beach defining us. We are nomadic people and he is the land by which we survive. He is our grounding place.The grounding place.
This world, the people we see and love and leave, need His faithful presence. We live in the grace of his reality, his presence. God is immanent, he fills all space and time in all creation.
We planted a church and it took root by the grace of God. We want to be here for the long haul. We want to be a faithful presence in this city. But 80 years is not even that long, and who knows what the Lord will actually do with the days he gives us. I might choose Vancouver but he has authority to uproot me anytime he wishes.
My faithful presence, your faithful presence, matters. It matters to the people God has placed around you, in your home, in your family, in your workplace, in front of you at the checkout counter. Your ability to be with them matters. Be intentional. Love them well. We need each other.
But do not be mistaken, my faithful presence, yours, is not what this world ultimately depends upon. We will come and go, city to city, but also through life to death. Our love for the people around us matters, but it is not enough. Point them to a faithful presence greater than anything we could ever offer.
This world, the people we see and love and leave, need His faithful presence. We live in the grace of his reality, his presence. God is immanent, he fills all space and time in all creation. Even more, he indwells. In Christ, by his mercy, he chooses to remain faithful to people who call him Lord. He makes billions of individuals across nations and history one in him; connected, known, united together in love and belonging, caught up in His faithful presence. It is beautiful and mysterious and bigger than anything one human could offer to another.
We need people. We need to be rooted in lasting meaningful relationships. We need to offer ourselves to others in the same way. But initiating and supporting all of this, and making any of it possible is the faithful presence of Creator God. And attaching us and bonding us beyond space and time and even death is something only he can do.
“‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:23-24
“In Christ all things hold together…” Colossians 1:17