Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
Returning is Hard
"Come near to God and he will come near to you."
James 4:8 (NIV)
Returning is hard. It doesn’t matter what it is or why you left it… returning is hard. So many things pop into my head as I write these words. Exercise. Ugh, is there anything worse than returning to the gym after you’ve taken a break? Muscles hurt, clothes are tight, and then there’s the reality of how your body has betrayed you in your absence. It takes 6 months to get into great shape and then in 1 month of slacking it disappears. Hometowns. Everything seems so different in the place that was once so familiar and that you knew so well. Life moved on in your absence and you are just another stranger upon return. Friendships. Life has a way of pulling friends apart, but we can’t blame life. With all of our technology, truly we are only as distant as we want to be. When this realization sets in, we have choices. Do we take the arduous step of reaching out to someone we’ve let slip away? How will they respond? I could go on and on but I think you get the point… returning is hard. In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been absent from the blog for a while – almost 5 months to be exact. I wish I had some grand excuse or reason, but the simple answer is life just got really messy all of the sudden. I love God and I love that He is a speaking Savior. But, inherent in this knowledge is the fact that when he speaks, we must obey. And so, when God whispered that our time in Peoria, IL was done, we had to prepare for his hand to lead us someplace new. Who puts their house up for sale when they have no job and no place to go? Who trusts that God will not leave them homeless when their house sells in 24 hours? Who moves to Belleville, IL? Well, I do. But before you think I’m trying to come across as super faithful and spiritual, let me put your mind at ease. I am not. This has been a severely difficult and chaotic time. Yes, I followed God, once again into the unknown, but it has not been without its challenges, tears, arguments, and wrestling. I love that God is mysterious and all-powerful, but I still want him to do things the way I think he should. This never happens. He is always at work pulling me deeper, honoring my request to be more like Jesus by up-ending my life so I will find him and his freedom in the unknown. In all truthfulness, in the unknown, I found myself a bit lost. I write these blogs not so you can peek into my life, but because I truly believe God speaks to us through the power of words and story. I love to take his Scriptures and weave the truths they hold into application through what I see and experience in everyday life. But overarching all of my desires for writing is me sitting at the feet of Jesus and asking him what he wants to say to you through my writing. In the chaos of these past several months, I lost sight of you, the reader, and for that I am sorry. I haven’t asked God in 5 long months what he wants to say to you because I’ve been too busy asking him to keep my own head above water. I share this not to make you feel sorry for me. Please don’t. I say this so that you will understand, even in our deep love and faith for Jesus, that there are seasons when we have nothing to give to others. When those seasons come, it’s ok to climb into the arms of Jesus to wait out the storm. Eventually, the storm passes and we emerge stronger than before. This is where I find myself today, stronger and yet more aware of my absolute need to kneel before my Savior for words of encouragement for you. I’ve been reading the book “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen and his words speak so perfectly and elegantly of what I feel… “I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully and very gently what I hear. I know now that I have to speak from eternity into time, from the lasting joy into the passing realities of our short existence in this world, from the house of love into the houses of fear, from God’s abode into the dwellings of human beings. I am well aware of the enormity of this vocation. Still, I am confident that this is the only way for me.” Last week I tried to write and it failed. My daughter and editor said lovingly… “nope.” In hindsight, I knew why. I was trying to write again out of duty. I was trying to say what “I thought” should be said and it failed. Today, however, is different. Today I sat with my Lord, ear to his chest in his warm embrace and simply listened. I listened for myself and I listened for what he wanted to say to you. What I heard was simple. “Return. Return to writing and start by sharing why you left. Don’t be ashamed. It will be hard, but I am with you. Return.” For Your Reflection… Returning to anything we’ve left is hard, but the good news is God will always go with us into whatever it may be we are returning. He never leaves us, but there are times God can feel far away because we haven’t spoken to him or acknowledged him in a while. James reminds us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Spend some time with this thought… God is ALWAYS for you.