Guest post: Leaving as Following

This coming Sunday, as we begin a new series at my church, I’ll be sharing about the tension between being sojourners and settling down. Adopted, itinerant, and always looking beyond the horizon, I feel as if it’s taken my whole life to learn the value staying, and continuity, and place.  Now, just as I’m starting to get it, my oldest daughter is leaving, moving to Europe for “awhile”, in response to God’s call on her life.  Ironic isn’t it?  I’m learning to settle as she’s picking up her tent and moving – both of us growing in response to God.  I love her fiercely because we share so much. I’ll follow her here (and you can too)  I’ll miss her deeply, daily.  But I know she’s following the God of Abraham, and will be a blessing to many.  Here’s her take on it, along with a family good bye video.  I hope you enjoy both:

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Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and so you shall be a blessing.” Genesis 12:1-2

Leaving is a loud presence lately, impossible to ignore four days from departure.  It whispers to me as I take down the curtains in the Ingraham High School classroom where I’ve taught English for four years, taunts me with luggagey staging area that my parents’ basement has become.  Leaving cheers from goodbye parties, smiles its way across from me in restaurants, reminds me that it’s the last time for a while.  Soon we’ll be alone, leaving and I.

In a week I’ll be on my way to Europe, and the truth is that I’m excited to go.  Along with the familiar allure new places and exploration, I’ll be teaching, which I love more every day.  In the summer it will be Bible students at Tauernhof Bible School in central Austria.   Beginning in August, my students will be the sixth- and seventh-grade children of missionaries at Black Forest Academy in southwestern Germany.  I look ahead to this adventure with greater anticipation than has ever drawn me away before, excited to serve, rather than observe, the wide world that awaits.

There is a sense of timelessness to this journey, as I don’t have a return date in mind.  A few years, I shrug in answer to a How Long, aware that I’m just guessing.  How long? I’ve asked so many times in the last twenty-five years.  Sometimes on long road trips, but mostly to God when I’m tired and concerned that this place, this situation, this struggle, might last forever.  And though Mount Vernon (where we drove for groceries and violin lessons) is always about an hour from Marblemount (where we lived, among trees and a river), the rest of the How Longs don’t get an answer.  For the first time, going from a life I love to one I don’t yet know, I’m not asking.  How long?  Long enough.  Until I show you where else to go.

Abram must have felt this.  If FlannelGraph memory serves me, they were doing fine in Ur.  Better than fine, they were rich and respected.  It’s easy to follow God away from somewhere awful, but those aren’t the people of faith whose lives inspire me to live bravely and trust God.  Leave this?  Abram must have asked.  Maybe he thought that the sky above the desert looked spectacular, sighed as he crossed the pass that shut the door on seventy-five good years in Ur.  But he still went, not asking when or if he was coming back, content to follow God further down the path of greatness, promised yet unknown.

That’s how I feel going out this week. I am rich in family and friends, rich in the blessings of home and belonging.  I’m leaving home knowing in God’s calling that home is waiting for me, half a world away. Because even the ninth graders know that home isn’t a building or a city; Abraham learned that it wasn’t a country or even a family.  Home is Christ.  And in pursuit of home I’ll go anywhere, for however long it takes to get there.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Graham

    Kristi,
    I didn’t know you are going to be teaching at BFA!? That’s crazy for two reasons; one as I’m writing I’m about 25 minutes from there and two: my distant relatives (my sister-in-laws relatives) were until recently administrators there. Have a great summer in Austria!

  • Tammy

    Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing.

  • Lauren

    Tears. “Home is Christ.” Yes it is. Yes He is. Beautiful, beautiful words from both father and daughter. Thank you for this gift tonight.


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