What Trusting God Looks Like (My Mars Hill Story)
“Don’t hold onto any expectations of what you want to see as the outcome of all this.”
One of my smart friends said that last summer. No expectations? Hmm…that’s not the usual way I operate. I’m a planner, an organizer, a goal setter, and if I’m being honest, a bit of a bull dog when it comes to getting what I want. I grab onto something and don’t let go- until it goes my way. There’s certainly a place for those attributes, when applied appropriately, but what I want even more than getting my own way, is for God to be able to do what he wants in my life.
Often times what I want is outside of my control. Okay, all the time it is, really- but only some of the time, I’m aware of it. When that happens, I either worry or I pray. Praying is definitely the better option, but my habit has often been to tell God what I want and to hold onto certain expectations, as if I know what’s best, as if he’s my genie in a bottle. I think God wants us to tell him what we desire. He’s our father, and just as any parent likes to hear from their kids, so does he. It’s part of being in a relationship, to communicate our desires, but it’s not right to dictate them. God has a much bigger picture of what’s happening. He knows best. That’s what trusting God looks like.
The “this” that my friend was referring to, when she made that comment about expectations, was something that was very much outside of my control, and it affected a lot of people. Mars Hill was the name of the church that my family and I had attended for the last five years, and it was going through some horrible turmoil.
Because of its large size, among other things, what was happening was widely reported, disparagingly, gleefully, almost daily, in the media. I didn’t, and still don’t, know the whole story. I understand that wrong things happened, but I didn’t directly experience or see those things.
For me, it was a place where I had learned a great deal, had grown in my faith, loved, and had been loved well by its people. This was more than a place that I attended once a week. Despite it’s large (15,000) size, it didn’t feel big. That number was divided among 15 separate locations, and within those locations, close relationships were made through participation in even smaller community groups. This was like family, and it was a family split that was painful. The news stories were like salt in the wound, yet I couldn’t stay away from them.
I didn’t always know how to pray during this time, because I didn’t know what to believe. But I kept replaying my friend’s words through my mind, not to hold onto any expectations about the outcome of what was happening. This is what trusting God is. I was starting to understand it on a deeper level. I just started praying for God’s will to be done in his church- knowing his church was not an organization or a building, but the people who loved him. I was trusting God because of Romans 8:28.
I know God loves his church even more than I do. But every time we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. Yet God was in control. The last Mars Hill service was the last Sunday of 2014. He didn’t save the organization, but he was still working for the good of his people. I was sad, but I also have hope. Many of the same people that were a part of Mars Hill Bellevue, where I attended, now make up a brand new church, that my family and I are a part of, called Doxa. There’s change for the better. We’re learning from mistakes that were made. Out of the ashes of what was Mars Hill, there are many new churches. Good things are happening and there is healing.
Holding onto certain expectations throughout this would have led to bitterness. I’m not bitter. This situation could have destroyed relationships with friends I loved. I had friends who left and I had friends who stayed- but we’re still friends. Considering the strong emotions on all sides, that’s not a small thing. Learning to trust in God can be a painful process, as this was, but I’m thankful for the lessons I learned over this past year. My faith is stronger because of this experience.
Trusting in God is something that I have to continually come back to. I’m getting better at this, by the grace of God, but I haven’t “arrived”. I still forget, withdrawing my trust and depending on myself. What’s wrong with that? I’ll explore that question next time.
Thanks for reading!