Last night I had a dream.
Long-time friends and people I used to serve with in church were in it. It was so vivid, it was like being there – right down to the emotions.
Old friends. Some who still are. Yet some are not.
And I woke up in tears. I woke up missing the past. I woke up wishing there were words I could say or actions I could take to mend broken friendships or relive some of those moments.
But it was, after all, just a dream.
One of our favorite mantras to preach is: “Things change.” Yet, it is a mantra I doubt many of us truly come to terms with on a personal level, because we hate it when it happens.
I believe we resist change because we live life in snapshots. There are moments that DEFINE the seasons of our lives. For me, one of those moments was 13 years ago, when I stood on a stage as the worship leader of a college/young career ministry and got to engage the entire church (not just the students) with songs. It is one of those moments that seems to paint a snapshot of all the joy and “hard work paid off” of that season. But…that season came to an end.
Another moment was standing in Times Square 3 years ago at about 1:00 a.m. with my former pastor as we dreamed about and discussed the possibilities of taking church to places it had never been before. Yet that was not meant to be.
One more: Standing in the Gulf of Mexico two summers ago with a friend and former co-worker baptizing students together who had just made decisions for Christ. That was one of THE best moments (one of the best snapshots) of the ministry I was a part of. Yet that, too, represents a season that came to an end.
In the snapshot, we don’t see how change can happen. We’re living in – or clinging to – that snapshot.
We hang on to the moments that defined that season, whether that season lasted for months or even years. We do that with our friends, with our careers, with our churches…even in our walks with God. The moments keep us hooked in. Even when things are changing, those moments keep us clinging to where we. We may even be chained to them, unable to break free.
But life is not a snapshot. It is more like a movie. Snapshots are mere frames in the film reel. And as the film moves, scenes change, and we have to change with the scenes.
For me, what was behind is now gone. It is gone because God told me to go, and I made a decision to obey God rather than cling to the snapshot.
But it is hard for me, at times, not to WANT to cling to it. Still harder, I know that others associate me with their OWN snapshots, and – not prepared for change themselves – my decision to change left them hurting.
I have heard many things: That I abandoned them. That I turned my back on them. That I left something great, so I must in some way have hated what I was a part of for me to leave it.
But what I often do not communicate is that it was painful for me as well. I did not want to leave behind the teams I cherished serving with. I poured 4 years into one ministry, then 11 into another. Each time, I hesitated to leave when I heard God’s calling. I hesitated because the snapshots – the moments that defined those ministries – were things I were not yet ready to leave behind. Possibly, I dreamed they would happen again in exactly the same way.
Most of the time, however, obedience IS change. We change when we obey God and walk away from sin. We change when we obey God and dare to love those whom we haven’t before. We change when God says, “Go” – even when we do not know (yet) where he is leading us.
Think about it. Are we always doing so well that God says, “Great job! Stay put!”? I can imagine no scenario where that has ever happened – in our lives or in Scripture.
Snapshots are wonderful things. They represent moments we should never forget. I am thankful every day for every one of them. They made me who I am, and the people in them will always be appreciated for their friendship and partnership in ministry. Period.
But snapshots should not hold us back, either. And even though I woke up this morning nearly in tears remembering the seasons gone by, I immediately realized I had a choice to make: I could either mourn the past, or embrace the new snapshots that may lie ahead as the “reel” of our lives turns in the projector. There are more great moments to be had.
You just have to be willing to live them.