Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
Into the Unfamiliar
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
Letting go is hard. My favorite devotional is “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman. My good friend Ida gave it to me back in 2005 and it has been my daily companion for 15 years now. It has taught me so much about God’s word, living faithfully as a Christ-follower, and where to find the “streams” in God’s word that bring hope during the “desert” seasons of life. It is a treasured gift. These days, this wonderful gift is haggard and worn. The pages are grimy from the years of my touch and falling out, no longer bound to the spine. The book’s paper covering was lost years ago and the now blue hardback with a black spine is falling apart as well. The inside isn’t much better. The pages are marked up with special passages highlighted and numerous dates, notes, and love ones’ names in the margins. There are even a few coffee and food stains inside as well. I love this book. It has taken quite a journey with me all these years and its appearance now reveals as much. As 2020 came to an end, I felt the nudge of God to let my old friend go. I’ve thought for years now about getting a new version, but that’s not an option for me; you don’t replace such a friend. I’ve also thought seriously about getting it rebound, and maybe someday that will happen, but for now the nudge is to let this familiar friend go. (My eyes are watering and my throat even clenching as I type these words. It seems so silly - it’s just a book. Yet the feelings are so real.) Letting go is hard. My Bible, a navy blue, 1984, thin-line, NIV version was given to me by my husband in 2004 for our 10th anniversary. It too has taken quite a journey with me these past 16 years and has been my daily companion as well. This was the first Bible I began to read when I got serious about my relationship with Jesus and its words have forever changed me. This book too is an old friend whose pages speak of our journey together. Favorite verses are highlighted, notes are written, dates and names are in the margins, the pages are dirty, and this cover is also now falling apart. This friend, however, my Lord will never ask me to put aside; of that I’m confident. This is His word, His voice, His breath to me, and I not only love it but also daily need it. The problem is, my eyesight is not what it was 16 years ago and the letters are so very small in this version. I’ve moved from glasses to Lasik eye surgery, to readers up to 2.5, and have finally landed on progressives but my old friend is getting harder and harder to read. I’m the funny old lady who shines a flashlight on her Bible so she can see it, but even that is not as helpful. The time has come to get a new Bible with larger print. For Christmas this year, my husband bought me a new one as similar to the old one as possible. It’s still a thin line but with a much larger print and is an NIV. It’s beautiful with silver-lined pages, a special note from my husband on the inside, and my name stamped in silver on the cover. It’s perfect and I love it, but a sense of sadness came over me as I opened it. Flipping through the crisp pages, there were no highlights, no markings, and no documentation of my journey thus far with my Savior. It felt so foreign. Again, letting go is hard. My first quiet time with God in this New Year was hard. The new Bible, while still an NIV, has been translated slightly different and some of my favorite passages, memorized long ago, have changed using different words. Cringe… I certainly don’t like that. I typically would use my devotional as a way to ease into my morning ritual after journaling, but without its presence, everything felt off and unfamiliar. So, I went to the bookshelf, grabbed it, and prayed, “Lord, give me one last word from my old friend so I can let it go.” June 19 is the date that popped into my head, so that’s the excerpt I went to read. The verse for the day… “Grain must be ground to make bread.” (Isaiah 28:28) It goes on to speak of our willingness to “be ground” so that we may feed others with what we have learned from God. It was one last beautiful gift of wisdom to me from my old friend. After putting it back on the shelf, I returned to my desk and looked at my new Bible patiently waiting for me to once again open its new pages. The silver-stamped letters on the front seemed to glare off the cover. “Do you understand now?” whispered into my soul. Through tears, I ran my fingers across the words… Pastor Stephanie R. Ehmke. While my old Bible had my name on it, this one marks my calling. As I sat there with this new Bible that will one day be an old familiar friend, I finally understood. My first Bible and my favorite devotional were God’s tools to sustain me all of these years as I’ve been “ground to make bread” for His service. I’m definitely not perfect and still don’t have all the answers, but that season is over and it’s time for a new one with new adventures, new lessons to learn, new scriptures to hold onto, and new ways of approaching God. It’s time now to move into the unfamiliar, but as His word says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV). It’s going to take some time to adjust, but I can’t wait to see what this next season holds!
For Your Reflection… Letting go is hard. In fact, it can be downright painful at times. What is God asking you to let go of in this season? How are you doing? God is more faithful than I ever could have imagined and I know if he is asking you to give something up, he will replace it in time with something better. Ask him to help you as you wait.