As the church moves into our seventh year, there is so much to be thankful for. God has been immensely gracious in helping Quest be a presence to Seattle and beyond. But I worry. I wonder how many people truly understand the heart of our church – and are committed to it.
The recent months have posed different challenges that have left me on occasions discouraged. It’s never my intent but it sucks when you discover that you’re the source of someone’s pain, departure, etc. It’s not what I had in mind as a pastor. Or you begin to question if your leadership or preaching really matters?
Several weeks ago, I received this email from a family that moved away from Seattle [and subsequently, Quest] couple years ago. This letter spoke so deeply into my heart and encouraged my wife and me immensely. We were both drawn to tears. They were a couple that clearly understood the shortcomings of our church and my leadership – but nevertheless, grew to love both the community and missions of the church. It encouraged us – that while we fall short of both our and people’s expectations – that somehow, God is being honored through our lives and Quest.
Another Sunday approaches and as usual my heart begins to take on a familiar heaviness. We have been absent from Quest for a year and a half and the same emptiness, the same pain, the same loss consumes my soul each week. The first year it was almost constant. Recently I have forced myself not to think about the family we left behind and this has proven useful. I can now function quite well as long as I don’t remember how my family was once a part of the most incredible church I have ever attended. Then Sunday comes and my avoidance is futile. There it is. The reminder that I am no longer where I want to be and the aching starts, the tears creep up into my eyes. I cannot refute the longing or pain that enters my being. I want to be back at Quest.
I know all of the roads I should be taking. Contentedness is not a place but a state of being. And yet? I cannot reach any other resolution. I am not alone. D [husband] echoes all of this and we rarely talk about how deep our longing is to return to Seattle – as it is just too difficult. We wonder if we made the wrong decision. It is not as if God is not with us. His favor and goodness to us still abounds. But it does not change the simple fact that once, we were a part of a blessed place.
The best thing I can liken it to is falling in love. So this is the analogy I am going to use. Here’s what happened. We moved to Seattle, new parents, lonely, nervous, excited. We visited other churches to no avail. There was one we liked and thought we could make this work but thankfully D insisted we try a few more. Then it happened. D went online and found a church he thought we should check out. It had a late service which was perfect since we hadn’t gotten our son ready in time to try out the next church on our list. We walked in. We knew. It was kismet. It was that feeling. That knowing, “this is it”. Instantaneously. It was further confirmed by DeAnza who immediately showed us kindness and by Melinda who lovingly offered to watch our son so we could experience the service. It was the sermon, the musical worship, communion, the realness, the depth, the uniqueness, the mission. We found it.
Week by week we delved more into the heart of the community and the more we got to know Quest, the more we realized this was not just a crush. This was it. The real thing. Like anything, it was not perfect, but in its “quest” toward loving God and serving others it played out the way I believe God calls us act toward one another – with honest, openness, love. I have never been to a church where the gospel remained ALIVE and central (with no wacky theology) and YET was able to keep Matthew 25 – critical part of its ministry. People cared. Not just about Christians, but about injustice, social justice, being a part of change. From the pulpit to day to day conversations the concerns of our global community were acknowledged, agonized and prayed over, made a life priority. This is where I knew I had fallen in love: a deep and beautiful love.
Of course that was further confirmed by you, welcoming us into your home, into your lives, into your family. Teaching us, befriending us, leading us and serving alongside us. And of course there were others, so many others…
When we decided to move, it tore our hearts. This is where the analogy of falling in love is best perfected. I felt like my soul had been ripped, my heart empty. I literally ached for our church family. Daily. I would cry often, several times a day. At first I couldn’t even think of joining a new congregation. It seemed preposterous. If you have ever ended a relationship with someone you held a deep connection with, friend or otherwise, you know that it is a disgusting thought to imagine getting to know someone else, to have to explain your background, passions, to expose your wounds, your history and dreams. I just didn’t want to do it. But after time went on I knew it was necessary. I actually tried hard to be optimistic. The choices were abysmal. Truly it was more of choosing the best of the worst.
So here we are. The boys have now adjusted and will go to the children’s ministry. We have joined a “growth group” full of some really great people. But we cannot shake the longing. It is a lot for me to humble myself enough to attend this congregation. I know they are people who love God. I have to remind myself that we are all striving for the same things. Ultimately at least. There is no word about the injustice that surrounds us. Not from the pulpit or otherwise. Women are not leaders in the church, they are only allowed to “teach” children as far as I can tell, or other women. We have been attending for 8 months and never met the pastor. I’m not even sure who his wife or children are. Each Sunday I ask the Spirit if it is present. I cannot feel anything. This is not a fit for me or for D, but it is the best choice for the children’s ministry…
So I guess this letter is twofold. To tell you how much we love you and appreciate all that you have done for us. And to tell you that we have not forgotten Quest, it is still very much a part of our hearts and prayers. We both would move back in a faster than you could imagine, if God opened the door. We pray and dream that He will. In the meantime we hope and miss how at one time we were a part of something incredible. Thank you for being God’s messengers, for being our friends, our mentors. You still inspire us. We love you! From the very depths of my soul I want you to know how very blessed I feel to have been a part of it all.
With greatest respect,