53:47 · March 7, 2023
In this episode of Grace at the Fray, Jim interviews "Steve K.", an anonymous missionary who recently returned to the US after 15 years abroad. They explore how God is using this experience to move in his heart, creating a longing for the future glory that God has promised us, and awakening a greater willingness to wait for it patiently. We see that longing for home is not just experienced by cross-cultural missionaries, but is something within all of us, preparing us for our ultimate homecoming—being with God together in eternity.
In this first episode of Grace at the Fray Podcast, Jim interviews “Steve K.,” a former missionary who recently returned to the US after 15 years abroad. They explore how God is using this experience to stir his heart, deepening his longing for the future glory God has promised us and awakening a greater willingness to wait for it patiently. Their conversation helps us see that longing for home is not just experienced by cross-cultural missionaries; it is something within all of us, preparing us for our ultimate homecoming—being with God together in eternity.
Through Jim’s conversation with Steve, we see that longing for home is not only experienced by cross-cultural missionaries but by all of us. It’s a longing given to us by God that prepares us for our real homecoming – when we are together in glory, with Him, for eternity.
You can find the full transcript of the episode here.
Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!
This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy.
“Grace at the Fray” is a podcast created by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.
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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at email@example.com
Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come and explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His kingdom.
Jim Lovelady 0:26 Hello beloved, and welcome to the first episode of Grace at the Fray—the podcast where we share stories of gospel transformation from the world of Serge, for the life of the world. Now, just to clarify, Serge is definitely a missions-sending organization. But the stories we share here—it’s bigger than that!
This podcast is a gospel of Jesus podcast. It’s a podcast about grace—about how grace renews us and then sends us out. And when we go, when we are sent by the Lord to work in His kingdom with Him, we recognize that we are the ones who are in need of the grace that we are proclaiming. So, it’s like breathing—we breathe in grace, and exhale grace. And all the while, we recognize that this is how the Lord is transforming His world, making His kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
And hey, this is a new podcast, so I’m going to ask you to do all the things that everybody asks you to do. You know, like and subscribe. Go to the place where you listen to podcasts, and subscribe to this channel. Go to YouTube and subscribe to the Serge channel. And click the notification button, so every time a new podcast comes up, you have a quick way of becoming part of this community. And tell your friends, tell everybody! If you are someone who has experienced the grace of God, and the desire to share that, join this community as we participate in what it means to breathe in the grace of God, and then exhale the grace of God.
So I thought about it: what would be a wonderful way to start a podcast for a missions agency? And I had lunch with a friend who was on the field for a little over 15 years, and he’s just coming home. And I realized: what better way to start a podcast about going than to tell a story about what it means to come back.
So as you hear his story, you’ll notice that you’re not going to see his face, we’re not going to be saying any particular names or locations of where he served, or the people that he worked with, and it’s out of respect for those people. But as you listen, listen for the longing for home. Because it’s not just something that the people who left and then have returned can testify to. The longing for home is something that we can all relate to.
So find yourself in this story of Grace at the Fray.
*Guest name has been changed for security purposes.
Jim Lovelady 3:06 Hey man, thanks for being on the podcast. It was a long time coming, right, making this happen? We did it! We’re going to do it!
Steve K. 03:18 A lot of conversations led up to this!
Jim Lovelady 03:21 So you all have been up to so much. You’ve been overseas for over 15 years. And when we started talking about what your return has been like, I could tell it’d be very apropos for the nature of this podcast called Grace at the Fray. You know, as soon as I told you this podcast is going to be called Grace at the Fray, your eyes lit up, and you were like, “Boom!” So, start with that: what’s it been like? You’ve been living somewhere for 15 years, and now you guys have recently returned.
Steve K. 03:58 Yes, I do like this theme, Grace at the Fray. I think a lot of why the Father took us overseas was not because I had something special that He wanted to insert in that place. It was because He wanted me to know more about what it was like to be a son, dependent on the Father. Like there was more He wanted to show me of the fray of where I was unraveling and where I was made to walk in His footsteps and be where He’s at work rather than be all independent and autonomous.
Jim Lovelady 04:35 Yeah, this isn’t about you going over to try and fix somebody. This is about you discovering something about yourself that the Lord wants to show you.
Steve K. 04:44 Yeah. And I think a lot of the stories I grew up with, and we hear in the church, about people going overseas, you sort of get the sense that they must be superheroes, you know, they must be these amazing people; they’re bringing it. And I kind of had these questions as we were going: Oh, what am I bringing? I feel very incompetent to do this. Because I haven’t studied for it. I don’t know this culture; I don’t know the language; I don’t know this religion that we’re going to interact with there. And so it was all new. It was all different. And I was feeling very incompetent. So God was like, “Yeah, I’m real comfortable with that.” He was very comfortable with my incompetence. And He was like, “That’s okay. We’re just going to unravel you, and then we’re going to kind of bring you back together to help you understand who I am.” So I think some of what He wanted to do was address some of those little pigeon holes, or like narrow ideas of what it means to go; what it means to be there and live there. And I think a lot of it had to do with Him wanting me to feel homesick. This theme of home is huge, especially looking back: homesickness. We’re living in another place.
Jim Lovelady 06:16 You left home. And then this place became a home, and it took a long time.
Steve K. 06:23 But over that time, I also began to realize that even home-home, my first home, there was a restlessness there. I ached for something more. We attach to the memories we have of the family gatherings and the camping trips and the feasts, and all those great memories we have. And there’s something about that: we grow up saying, “oh, we should go back there.” And it makes us long for it. And we think, in our puny little thinking, that if we could get things to be back there, all would be well, right? But God is like, “No, I gave you that so you would be homesick. I gave you that so that today, you would long for that.” And as it turns out, He was taking us overseas to a place where the culture was welcoming us and where the feasting was good, and where there were people who warmly welcomed me into their shops, their lives, their world, and their culture, in ways that sort of stood like those signposts to what home is really supposed to be like.
Jim Lovelady 07:43 So those things became this quick invitation. This generous hospitality became this invitation to a new place to call home. It really did start to feel, “Oh, we love this place. We love these people.” And then you’re living life there; it’s beautiful; it’s an adventure, and it’s scary. And all of those things, when you’re taken out of your familiar and brought into a new place, and it becomes your new familiar. And then the Lord says, “Okay, now I want you to leave.”
Steve K. 08:23 Yeah, so He took us to this place where we almost hadn’t realized how much it had become home. And our kids expressed it for us when we said, “Hey, we’re thinking about, maybe in the next few years, moving back to the States.” And the kids were like, “Well, we’re not from there. We’re from here. That’s not home; this is home. Why would we leave home? You’re asking… you’re telling us we’re gonna leave home. And for you, maybe it’s going home, but for us, it’s leaving home. And this is the only home we’ve known. Why would we feel comfortable with that?” And that was agonizing because here we are talking about tearing our kids away from their homeland in a way. But at the same time, they are TCKs: they have two cultures, three cultures, you know, whatever they are, sort of in between. So they weren’t unfamiliar with this place, but it felt foreign to them. And still does. And that was part of why it was scary to think about leaving there; it was all new and even for us. Like, being away from a country for 15 years, just visiting once in a while, you lose some of what happens when you breathe the air of a culture constantly. And so, going back to it, you realize, “I don’t think that way anymore. I don’t look at things that way. I don’t use that language. I now have this other language.” So I think some of what was so sweet of the Lord was to take us to a place where we were so dependent: we were so dependent on our neighbors, we were so dependent on the people around us to do a business, to do life, to learn the language, and to find things we needed. We were deeply dependent upon people. And it turns out, that’s a good way to be in the work…
Jim Lovelady 10:32 That’s a good way to do life.
Steve K. 10:34 Yeah. And it’s a good way to do the work of the Kingdom in another place – not going with competence and great confidence of strides to say, “I’m bringing you something amazing.”
Jim Lovelady 10:48 The history of Christianity is riddled with how problematic that mentality is. But as I’ve been talking with various folks, it’s this natural thing that happens when you go into another culture. You go, “Oh, my goodness, I need help here.” And the self-sufficiency – I mean, it’s compounded in our culture because it’s an individualistic culture. And so the self-sufficiency that is cultivated in an individualistic culture is compounded by individualism, where I don’t need anybody. And that’s the best way. My culture says that’s the best way to be. And you naturally go to this other culture, and you’re like… it’s breaking this old way of thinking because it goes, “you know, you’re not going to make it if you think that way. And, on top of that, we don’t really think that way around here. So welcome to this new place and a new way of being.”
Steve K. 11:49 Yes. And I know that some people in our midst have gone to countries where they’re not real gracious about you not getting it.
Jim Lovelady 12:02 You just happened to be in a place that was very gracious.
Steve K. 12:04 We happened to be in a place that was very gracious. They were like, “Oh, you don’t understand? Let me help you along the way.” “Oh, no, this is how we say that.” Or “Are you looking for something we can help you find?” Or, “Maybe you should come over to our house to have a meal so we can show you what real food is like!” There was a graciousness, hospitality, and warmth that was convicting to us because we were like, “man, we never treated foreigners this way back in America.” So all of those things began to really work deep in us to sort of redefine or kind of de-structure our idea of home. But also, the Lord was using it to increase the ache and the longing because now we longed for these people to know the source and the goal of the hospitality, to know the Hospitable One, to know what it means to be really safe and welcomed in and be yourself because it’s who you are made to be; we begin to long for them to know Jesus.
Jim Lovelady 13:18 Yeah. All the things that make home, home. Yeah, this is where you belong.
Steve K. 13:26 Yeah. And so here we are, in this place that has kind of become home, and we begin to get this sense (and the reasons don’t really matter) that He, who is writing our story, was finished with this chapter of our story, and was ready to move us on to another chapter in another place. And it wasn’t out of conflict or out of anxiety, and it wasn’t out of mental breakdown or something like that. It was just like, “No, I’m writing your story into another place, taking you somewhere else.” And we had peace about that, even though it was hard. But He was doing it. So they say that from the point when you decide you’re going to leave a place until the six-eight months later you actually leave, that period is called “leaving.” And then, when you land in the new place, it’s called transition. You’re in transition.
Jim Lovelady 14:36 We have left liminal space.
Steve K. 14:40 And so we decided in January, and we left in June, so for those six months of leaving, it began right away; it began with the day that we talked with our kids about it and the day that we talked with our team and stuff.
Jim Lovelady 14:55 The different ways that it becomes real to different people in this process – it is a very liturgical thing because you go, “I’m not sure if I’m ever coming back here. I have a lot of real legitimate celebrating and grieving to do with the people that I have loved and who loved me.”
Steve K. 15:19 And I think that was in God’s kindness; He allowed that to begin right away. We could see that He had provided for our team. We had new members who had already been there for several months before we came to this decision point. And we could see that they were great; they were going to be great for the team, and they were going to be a great part of things. And they were beginning to make connections in the community and stuff. So, there was hope in us. And God was like, “Okay, I got it. See this?” Now some of those people came to our company during the pandemic. You know, when nobody did anything, some of these people were applying.
Jim Lovelady 16:03 Yes. So step number one, maybe not step number one, but a significant step is that we have a lot of beautiful things that we’ve been doing here in the work. We would love for this work to continue. And the Lord goes, “I got you.”
Steve K. 16:19 I got you there. Yeah. He’s like, “Hey, this is something I’m doing, remember? Remember, I brought you here because I’m at work here? And I just invited you into the room to help me.” You know, I often think of the dad painting the room. And the kids are like, “Can we come in?” And the dad could either say no and lock the door because he can get it done better himself. Or, if he really loves his kids, he’s like, “Yeah, come on, come on.” And he knows it’s gonna be a mess; there’s going to be paint in the hair and the clothes and on the floor and all the windows. But what he most wants is for kids to be in this with him. And that’s how God took us overseas. He’s like, “I can do this without you. But it delights me to bring you into it.” And for us, the main motivator, even in sort of naming that calling for us, was: I want to be where He’s at work. It wasn’t: I’ve got this thing I know I can bring. There was delight in seeing the Father at work. So seeing Him unfolding this began to come to us as kindnesses and that our team was shaping in such a way that it gave us hope for the future of the work. The business that we had started was coming out of the pandemic intact. And that was a mercy.
Jim Lovelady 17:38 Healthy, thriving even, ready for the next thing, and you’re celebrating, but at the same time, you’re going, “this is going to be without me.”
Steve K. 17:47 It’s going to ache, yeah. We’re gonna miss it. We’re gonna miss even people who I interviewed to be able to come and do their thing in that space. I didn’t get to see them actually arrive, except from a distance. So then this other kindness was saying goodbye to the people. And a lot of what I love and what I most miss about that city was that I could walk from my house to my work, my vocation there, and interact with people all along the way: recognize people, wave to people, talk to people, step into stores and talk to people. And there was just this sort of like community, tight community feel. And I’m like, “I have to leave this.” This is my routine. And these are my people. This is my community. And there were days throughout the spring when I totally did not plan this and couldn’t have seen it coming, but the Father had these little serendipitous interactions with people, some people who I hadn’t seen in quite a while, and I would bump into him on the street. “Well, how are you doing?” You know, “How’s it going?” “I need to tell you that we’re leaving.” “Oh, that’s so sad.” “Ah, remember the times we’ve had? Remember how you helped us find a house? Remember how you invited us into your home?” Like, all these different people. And daily, sometimes, and some days, I bumped into like five or six people in one day, where I was coming away from the last one with tears in my eyes because I just couldn’t believe how kind God…
Jim Lovelady 19:25 Yes, the kindness of God that would arrange these situations so that you will be set up to leave really well. And celebrate and grieve, but…
Steve K. 19:38 And they had stepped into that celebrating and grieving with me. In some cases, it was people I didn’t know. But there was, over the years, regular eye contact and greeting and just sort of the formal greetings, but also kind of a like, “Hey, I know you. You’re in our neighborhood.” You know that kind of – where we didn’t know each other’s names – but knowing somebody. There was a cleaning lady at one of the utility companies that I saw for years. Then she disappeared, and I didn’t see her. And then, during this time of leaving, I bumped into her on the street one morning. We were like the only ones on the street. I bumped into her, and I was like, “Hey, how are you doing?” And she was like, “I’m doing well; how’s your family doing?” We talked for a little bit as if we knew each other. But she was the cleaning lady there. And we just sort of always waved at each other and said, “Hi,” as I was going through the door. And we talked for five or six minutes. I told her we were leaving, and she said, “That’s so sad. I’m sad that you’re leaving, that’s too bad. Maybe you’ll get to come back.” And I asked her, “When you disappeared, where did you go?” “Oh, I’m working over at another utility company now.” And then we parted ways. And I walked away just with tears in my eyes, saying, “Father, thank You that I had the privilege of living in this place and knowing these beautiful people.” And that’s just one; there were dozens of these beautiful kindnesses along the way. And that helped ease the ache, but it also showed me the Father saying, “I see you. And I walk there, and I feel it. It’s going to ache to leave, I feel it with you.” And that just so helped the leaving right up until the end. We actually got to visit in another city someone we had known – someone I had done a lot of language learning with. We went back to that city just before we left the country, and we got to visit this man and his wife. And I learned a ton of language from him. And he was just dear. When my kids were really little, he was like an uncle to them in the street, like someone who cared for them and was kind to them and invited them in. And we were visiting him with these older kids and the whole story behind us. And it was hard to say goodbye. But we had a great little time together. And I just said, “God, how kind of you that we could have that conversation!”
Jim Lovelady 22:28 Yeah, all these beautiful little moments that lead up to the end of the leaving period into the transition. You all have now done a debriefing time. And talk about that debriefing time because that was…
Steve K. 22:42 Yeah, so there was an image. They had asked us to create an image of where you are right now, like, where are you in the whole world…
Jim Lovelady 22:49 …in the transition period.
Steve K. 22:50 Transition. And you know, as you’re crossing this bridge, where are you? And another kindness of God was in that moment. He gave me this image that has really helped me through the season. And I think a lot of other people would probably feel the same way. Because some people asked me, “How are you doing? Does it feel so hard that you didn’t get to finish some things or left all this work behind?” We’re also grieving that we couldn’t finish conversations with the lost. We can’t see people step into the kingdom – we had seen some step in, but we hadn’t… there were so many, you know, that we wanted to see.
Jim Lovelady 23:35 That’s interesting because you had so much closure with so many people. But there was a lot of closure that didn’t get to happen. So there’s this…
Steve K. 23:47 I mean you have this sense of calling that you’re going there to see souls saved. And in the moment of leaving, you have to say to yourself, it’s not in my hands anymore. That aches; you wanted to see them saved. So there’s all this – all those emotions – and (at debriefing) they were asking me this question: “What’s the image, diagram? Draw it,” or whatever. And the image that came to my mind was of the four Pevensie children sitting on the train station platform. In a crowd of people, they’re just sitting there. But they’re not just the Pevensie children anymore. They just spent maybe four or five decades reigning in Narnia.
Jim Lovelady 24:37 This was after they had been… this is the beginning of Prince Caspian.
Steve K. 24:42 Maybe, you know, I might be putting a bunch of stories together. The image that comes to my mind is that they were back in Britain and processing that they had just been kings and queens.
Jim Lovelady 25:03 Sitting in just a boring train station…
Steve K. 25:07 And there are empty train tracks in front of them, and they’re waiting for a train to take them somewhere. I’m not sure. We don’t even really know: are they going to a boarding school or where are they going in the next place? They’re asking this question, or this is a question hanging in the air. “Did that just happen? What was that? Is that real? Do we just wake up from something?” And the fact is, they had reigned as kings and queens; they had gone on epic hunts for the white stag; they had sailed across the seas in these wonderful boats; and written treaties – signed treaties with people; they had seen and feasted with amazing, beautiful creatures and beings. They had walked with Aslan with their hands on his mane. And they had seen him breathe life into stone statues. And those statues became living flesh. They had seen spring replace winter in Narnia.
Steve K. 26:23 Now, they’re sitting on the platform in their drab British clothes. And are they just a bunch of kids going off to boarding school? Or, are they those kings and queens who had walked with Aslan? And that’s where I was! That’s the place where I was sitting saying, “Did that just happen? Who am I? Am I just going to put on the drab clothes of my country? And just kind of enter into whatever, just blend in? Or am I going to walk as someone who knows what it is like to be a royal son? And who was not taken to that place because of what I bring, but because a story was being written, that needed to have that, where the king himself was delighted to have the sons of Adam be part of it. And so that was part of..
Jim Lovelady 27:25 For Lori and I, when we came off the field, it was about the time that The Lord of the Rings movies were coming out. And it was the image in Return of the King, where the hobbits returned to the Shire in their royal garb, and they’re riding horses and they have been… the eucatastrophe in Tolkien’s words. They are experiencing this new realm – new status quo – and they’re sitting in the pub, and everyone’s time has moved on. And everyone kind of forgot that they left. And here they are again, and they’re looking around. We’re back in just normal land, and what do I do with this? So we had to really wrestle with it. We were just on a really great adventure. Now we’re gonna go back to just like the same old. We went away to a place where, you know… I love the way that you talked about how they walked with Aslan, and you lived in a place where you walked with Aslan. So now we return, we just go, “Ah, now, what is it? What is life now?” That felt like home. This definitely doesn’t feel like home. At least it’s not as exciting a home as the adventure that we were just on, or y’all were on for a lifetime for your kids. You know?
Steve K. 28:58 Yeah. I think there’s a sort of a misnomer about going overseas, the capital G, “Go,” that somehow gets elevated as a vocation. Rather than seeing our primary calling, as Oz Guinness describes it, as being by Him and for Him and unto Him, all that we have is His. And we are His work. He delights to call us His own; we’re beloved. And He’s writing the story. And that’s where that primary calling thing, if we could just follow Jesus into that, we wouldn’t need to have a title or a job description that specifically says, “your work is about representing Aslan to these….”
Jim Lovelady 29:54 It’s a lot more humble, isn’t it?
Steve K. 29:55 It is, it is. It’s more normal. But as you know, at the same time, we are sometimes called to go to another place. And that takes a lot of machinery and a lot of support and a lot of things to make it happen. And I think what has begun to happen for me is realizing that I am that royal ambassador; I am that priest. I’m not perfected in it. I don’t know how to do it well, but as far as my identity and my calling, nothing is different on this side of the wardrobe. Nothing has changed other than maybe some of those circumstances like we had a business over there,
Jim Lovelady 30:45 Once a king or queen of Narnia, always the king or queen of Narnia.
Steve K. 30:49 That’s right. And we had a business that had just an amazing reputation. And I was known in a city for being a certain thing, for what I did, and for the way I interacted with people. And that was part of our witness – part of how we loved the city. We did a project that was good for the city, and people recognized that. They were like, “Hey, what you’re doing for our city is really a good thing!” And that gave me access to talk with people. Why would I not think about vocation that way, coming back, everywhere I go? Whatever country the Father wants me to live in next, it will be my country of exile, and home will always be home. And I will long for it. My roots will be there. But I am going to wherever He has planted me, even though my roots are there. I’m going to do all that I can – I mean, this is ideal, but it’s what I’m called to do – all that I can for the flourishing of that place and to love those people; and to make sure I stop and hear those people and find out, “Oh, well, how is God at work already here in these people?” Not “I’m bringing something,” but no, God’s already at work.
Jim Lovelady 32:16 How do I get to participate in what God’s doing?
Steve K. 32:18 Yes. Because it hasn’t changed just because I don’t need a passport to be here. It’s the same God who loves these people. And if I end up moving to another place, it’s those people as well.
Jim Lovelady 32:33 So I love how there was this blatant parallel between the Pevensies sitting there on a drab train bench, and you coming back home. You got a job at Lowe’s.
Steve K. 32:51 Working at a big box store, clock in-clock out retail, it really began to challenge me to hear recommissioning. What am I called to? Who am I really? If I really am that daughter or son of Adam, when I go to a new place, and I work a new job, then I’m still that, but in drab clothes, in a new place.
Jim Lovelady 33:25 And what does it mean to bring Aslan into this place? You went somewhere, and you walked with Jesus. And He led you on some beautiful adventures, and He took you into some places that changed you. And then, He brings you back home and He goes, “Now, go do that, what I just taught you, what you have been practicing for 15 years. Go do that. So let’s pick a really boring place. Go do that at Lowe’s. Yeah, you know, go bring my glory to the most boring, mundane place because, those people there, your coworkers and every person that’s trying to go into that store for home improvement, they’re longing for the glory that you have seen. So now go love on those people.”
Steve K. 34:17 You know why they’re coming there, because they long for beauty. They want to take stuff that’s broken and fix it. You want to take stuff that’s chipped, old, and frayed, and put a new coat of paint on it. They want to do something to amp up that feeling of home that God has put in them and that longing for home.
Jim Lovelady 34:43 That’s wild.
Steve K. 34:44 And so when they get there, and here’s somebody who’s seeing them and hearing them and willing to be excited about their project with them and invite them into another way of thinking about it or the materials or the tools or whatever. All of a sudden, it’s a rewarding relationship. It’s not just a commodification or it’s not just sales.
Jim Lovelady 35:09 Suddenly, the hospitality of God is being worked out in these aisles.
Steve K. 35:19 I think He’s taking me into another chapter of vocation that is not at a big box store but it’s possibly in a classroom. And it’ll be the same kind of thing: How am I listening to where He’s at work? Loving people where they are, helping them see beauty, and deal with that longing for home, and being shapers and makers. Like, it’s still the same kind of stuff, and it’s hard because it’s uncomfortable. He keeps calling me to incompetence.
Jim Lovelady 36:02 But yeah, again, it’s like, there’s this humble thing. When you go… you went overseas, and you lived in a place that inherently brought out a sense of dependence and built in you humility. And then you come back, and it’s not like, “Hey, I’m back. And let’s see how amazing I can be and how amazing everything around me can be.” It’s like, “Hey, I’m back. And I’m gonna go work at Lowe’s.” The only difference is, it’s not just this; it isn’t just mundane. It is a glorious thing. Because there are glorious things happening where these glorious people are doing business and you are helping them. And you’re looking for places to cultivate the beauty that is around you. That’s why the Pevensie thing is a perfect image because you’re sitting here going, “I just had a really great adventure. And I guess I’m gonna go to Lowe’s, and then maybe, okay, now, I won’t be doing that. I’m going to teach.” And what does it mean to leave home for a new place but still be looking for home? It’s this elusive…
Steve K. 37:28 It’s a journey. It’s like a pilgrimage in a sense. And I’m finding that as I’m looking for fellowship, and I’m looking to have my life connect with people here, believers. I’m looking for people that I can be on pilgrimage with. We’re all on our way, right? We’re on our way to something and the Father is content with us being in a place that’s uncomfortable and imperfect and lacking. But He’s not just content with that; He puts in these signposts along the way of home, to say, “Oh, I’ve got you.” These kindnesses that say, “I’m in this story with you. I’m actually writing it. I am actually playing it out in such a way that on that day…” It’s literally in a blink of an eye away to Him, for whom there’s no past, present, or future. It’s like, from His perspective, it’s not “How long Oh, Lord,” you know? He’s not saying, “Oh, I can’t wait till I can do that thing.” For Him, it’s already done. And so from His perspective, He has something He wants to unfold for me, for you, where, in that moment, we will see not just the meaning or the purpose, but we will see that He has, in fact, been intimately writing it and loving us through it all along, in such a way that we will just gush with songs. And we will laugh, and we will realize that all those family feasts from when we were kids or that wonderful playtime or that vacation, or that dog that we just loved, you know, or whatever it is, it all is pointing to this beginning of the story that is going to happen on that day. And we will say, “That’s what it was about.” Everything that I love here is going to be made new. Not that it will disappear or something. There will be a new thing. It’s the making new of all that there is.
Jim Lovelady 40:00 The dwelling place of God is now with humans.
Steve K. 40:04 And so we will be home in that, and we will understand all those longings were pointing to being satisfied in this.
Jim Lovelady 40:16 Yeah, I hug my dog, and I go, something in me goes, “Is this home?” And it’s like, “oh, no, like lowercase ‘h,’ maybe.” Right? I make an espresso, and I sip it and I go, “This is perfect. Is this home?” Yeah, no, it’s like lowercase “h.” I hug a friend, or I go on that vacation that we always take, and I sit down in that chair that I always sit in. And I take a deep breath because I’m on vacation. This is how everything is supposed to be. It doesn’t get any better than this. Is this home? No, this isn’t.
Steve K. 40:59 And on that day, it is going to be the beginning of all that we longed for and all that we’ve had a glimpse of. And I like to think of how, at the family dinner or on vacation, wherever somebody after the meal, you’re all kind of sitting back and somebody tells a story. “Can you just go ahead and tell that story? We just love it when you tell that story.” And that’s what it’s gonna be like! People are gonna stand up on that day, at that feast with song and with story, and they’re gonna say, “Let me tell you.” And we’re all gonna be like, “Oh, yeah, we love that. Tell us that story. You can take the next 100 years to tell that story if you want.”
Jim Lovelady 41:53 We have all the time in the world.
Steve K. 41:56 That’s right. And that’s where it will begin. That won’t be like the ending. It will be the beginning. And this is all so that – the ugly and the hard of right now – God is totally comfortable with that because He knows what He’s about to do. He knows He’s about to take us home. And so He’s like, “Feel that. Feel that it’s not home; feel the longing.”
Jim Lovelady 42:21 Yeah. So how now shall we live? What does it look like to have these, you know… to feel torn, in a sense. And you’re feeling torn in a very real sense, in this culture shock kind of way. You know, it’s very fresh for you, but it’s fresh for all of us when I go, “Is this home? Is this thing home?” It’s like, “Well, no.” But how do I commit myself to loving this world that I’m sojourning in? I’m a pilgrim here and making it… I want to make it, you know, since the dwelling place of God will be this, and He is making all things new, I want to participate in that now, all the while knowing that it’s not quite yet. It’s like… How do you describe that wrestling match? How have you been working that out?
Steve K. 43:18 I need help. This is why I want to walk with you and talk with you more, Jim. It helps me. But I think there is definitely this coming back to, like I was saying, that primary calling piece of knowing, “I’m His beloved son. He’s writing my story. And what He has for me is gonna blow me away.” And He’s okay. He’s not anxious about the imperfection of now. He’s not anxious about the fact that I am going to keep doing that sin. I’m not going to get fixed until that day, you know… I’m not going to see… There’s a lot of things: He’s sanctifying me, He’s growing me, but I think sanctification is looking more like running to Him about my sin, and not as much being totally delivered from my sin, you know. There’s something about the way I am that is probably going to continue in certain circumstances to have this fleshly response. And I will say, “I’m not going to do it next time.” You know? “Lord, help me not do that; help me not have that kind of anger response, or that kind of anxiety response, or that kind of orphan response.” And He’s like, “It’s okay… I just want you to come to Me. What I want most is you in My face. And soon, we’re just going to sweep away this tent. This life is just gonna get swept away and be replaced by all things made new, including you.” And so I think that a lot of what that looks like is really clinging to Him and asking Him for comfort where we need it. Because He really does. He really does want to comfort us, and wants to give us sleep and give us… help us walk through hard circumstances. It’s what He wants, and He wants us to see that it’s from Him what we’re doing. And so what I think it looks like is asking… sort of being curious and expectant about this part of the story He’s writing and why He has me here in it. There have been times when I’ve said, “God, I think you got it wrong. I’m not where I’m supposed to be. Here You have me doing accounting for business. And I’m not a numbers guy. I hate numbers. I can’t hold them in my head. Why? We obviously need somebody else to be doing this part of the work.
Jim Lovelady 46:12 Obviously, God, and it’s obvious to everybody, God.
Steve K. 46:15 And it took a while to finally hear Him saying, “You know, it’s where I have you.” And I had to just kind of sit there for a bit before I finally got around to saying, “Okay, well, if it’s where You have me, then I need to do it well. I need to walk in it well.
Jim Lovelady 46:37 The beautiful thing about that story is when the Lord says, “Trust me.” You’re in conversation; this is all presupposing a conversation with the Lord where you go, “Lord, I think you got this wrong,” which is a prayer, you know, directed to the only One who can do anything about it. And the Lord says, “Trust me,” and you go,” Ah, I don’t really want to,” and the Lord says, “I know. I love you. And I am working in you a new kind of humanity that I have started with the death and resurrection of Jesus.” And so then the victory of God in that is that, after that conversation, you come away astounded that He would love you in spite of your early unbelief and your mid-level lack of trust and late repentance.
Steve K. 47:33 That’s right. And I think He’s just wanting us to walk in that and see, just like from the very beginning, where I said, “Oh, I want to be where the Father is at work in that place,” He wants me to say that as I look at everything. And He wants me to begin my sentences with His name. Even, like you said, those complaints, you know, when I complained to Him and say, “God, I think you got it wrong.” I think I shouldn’t be in this spot. He’s like, “I love that you brought that to Me.”
Jim Lovelady 48:05 Right? Exactly. In the presence of God is the fullness of joy. In the presence of God is where you belong. Where you belong is home. And so while we are longing for that day, there are these great… the most intimate signposts, that hugging your dog and in finding meaningful work and loving people that are hard to love, all of those signposts are opportunities to find yourself in the presence of God. And in the presence of God is the fullness of joy. And He goes, “This is only a fraction of how it’s going to be when I bring you home.”
Steve K. 49:00 Yeah. So it has helped, I mean, faith growing in some of these things, little increments. People asked me in the last decade or so, like “How have you seen your faith growing?” or things like that, and I usually describe it as like, clockwork, you know, there’s inside a clock these little tiny…
Jim Lovelady 49:20 Little increments.
Steve K. 49:22 …like a little increment.
Jim Lovelady 49:26 So it’s not the fast spinny one.
Steve K. 49:27 No, not the fast spinny one or the one that goes back and forth constantly, although that’s probably true, too. But it’s just the little increments of change where I’m growing in believing Him for what He has said about me, and about the world, and about what He’s about to do, and those things that have become hope. And you know, the writer of Hebrews describes that hope… that we have it as an anchor for our souls. And so the increments of change have been these little increments of realizing the anchor that I have is worth trusting in, and that changes today how I approach a vocation, or a transition, or parenting, or a marriage thing, or… I can really believe Him for all of these things. And not that I do completely, but those increments have shown me that He loves me because change means the Holy Spirit has been on the move. And He’s doing something. Yeah. And I can look at it and I say, “Wow, if that changes there, then He loves me. And He’s doing something. He’s writing a story that includes me. What a privilege. What a wonderful thing.
Jim Lovelady 51:07 And I can’t wait to sit around the campfire for all eternity and be like, “Hey, man. Tell that story. We all love it when you tell that story. Tell that story.” And those stories always end in overwhelming thankfulness. So if they’re gonna end with overwhelming thankfulness, I might as well start practicing thankfulness now. So I’m thankful that you’re back over here.
Steve K. 51:34 Me too. Thanks for inviting this conversation. It’s really helpful to put things in the light, as a friend of ours often said, and see them that way, as something that the Father is doing. And we’re not orphans; it’s something He’s been doing all along. Leaving the field was hard, but it was also a beautiful experience. And it has led to a deeper understanding of calling. And I’m really thankful for that. So, you know, thanks for these conversations. I’m so looking forward to some more.
Jim Lovelady 52:24 Yeah. Yeah. Thanks, brother.
Steve K. 52:26 Yeah, thank you.
Jim Lovelady 52:29 So as we go, all the while recognizing this longing for our eternal home, I want you to think about what glorious thing might be hiding in the mundane. What mundane thing might the Lord be calling you into?
And as you obey Him, you discover that it’s actually something more glorious because that’s where the Lord is.
Because wherever the Lord is, wherever the presence of God is, that’s home, all the while, we are longing for that eternal home. So as you go, receive the Lord’s blessing because He’s blessed you to bring His grace everywhere you go.
So may the Lord bless you and keep you, and make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you, turn His bright eyes to you and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting. Amen.
This individual is a missionary, pastor, or ministry leader who has chosen to keep their identity anonymous in order to protect their own safety and the safety of those they serve. At Serge, we have many workers serving in closed-access countries around the world and we prioritize security, which is essential for the success of their mission.
Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.
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